MIAMI COUNTY — Miami County agencies are working together to bridge the food insecurity gap with “pop-up” food pantries held in various locations around the county.
Last week, a pop-up pantry was held in the parking lot of the Council on Rural Services and New Path ministries’ food pantry at The Bistro on Commerce Drive in Piqua. Organizers said people were lined up two hours before food was to be distributed. More than 145 vehicles were filled with food from Shared Harvest Food Bank and other food assistance organizations.
Miami County’s Ohio State Extension Office Alisha Barton serves as an adviser for the newly formed Miami County Food Insecurity committee. The Aug. 24 event was the third pop-up food distribution for the committee and its support agencies. At its second distribution, 183 households, or 602 people, were served.
“We try to make it easy and friendly and no barriers,” Barton said.
The committee first formed last November after Barton was working with an Ohio State University professor on a food insecurity project. Aimee Shannon, a social worker with Health Partners Free Clinic, shared how the agency was working with nursing students at Wright State University on community issues, and access and availability of food was consistently listed as an issue in the city of Troy.
Shannon, who serves as the chairperson of the committee, said 12.2 percent of the Miami County population is categorized as “food insecure.”
Barton shared how local human services agencies have the same goal to help those in need in Miami County, but she noticed the organizations were “having separate conversations.”
“Nobody was at the same table, we were all having these separate conversations, so that is what the food committee did. A ton of people were already doing that work, we just said, ‘Let’s all sit at the same table and have this conversation,’” Barton said. She said the majority of county food banks and pantries, along with support from businesses like Meijer distribution, have banded together to put together mass food distribution events like the pop-up pantries.
Terry Perdue, with the Shared Harvest Food Bank, said, “We had lines wrapped around the building in two lines. Today we saw 145 families. We are hoping to have one once a month, so we are hoping to hold a few more this year. This committee and collaboration is looking at food insecurity as a whole. This is one of multiple ways we are trying to address food insecurity in Miami County.”
Perdue said while food insecurity is the core of their work, they also invite other service organizations like the Miami County Dental Clinic and other health agencies to share flyers and information at their events.
“We’re trying to remove those barriers people have, food being the core, and help them overcome those challenges,” he said.
To qualify for the mass distribution events, you have to be a resident of Miami County and be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
“Some of the barriers are removed when (people) come here, too. They just show us an ID and fill out one line of information, so there’s less paperwork,” Barton said. “We try to hold these at the end of the month because a lot of times they’ve already used up their food benefits and food from other pantries, so this is like a bonus at the end of the month.”
To volunteer or learn more about the Miami County Food Insecurity committee, search for the committee on Facebook or contact Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org or Shannon at email@example.com.
Agencies represented on the committee include: OSU Extension office for Miami County, Health Partners Free Clinic, Shared Harvest, Partners in Hope, Miami County Local Food Council, Family Abuse Shelter, The Troy Foundation, Tipp City Chamber of Commerce, Tipp Monroe Community Services, The Troy Rec, Lincoln Community Center, Piqua Compassion Network, Clubhouse, SafeHaven, Needy Basket, New Path, Stonebridge Pantry, First Presbyterian Breakfast Club, Troy View Church Food Pantry, St. Pat’s Soup Kitchen, First Place Food Pantry, First UCC Backpack Program, Upper Valley Career Center, Miami County Continuum of Care, Miami County Public Health and Area Agency on Aging.