Hundreds line up in Hamilton for senior food giveaway, showing need during pandemic

More than 100 cars lined up in Hamilton Friday to receive free food boxes as part of senior program sponsored by Shared Harvest food bank in Fairfield. More than 300 seniors who had signed up for the food giveaway came through the distribution center set up in a shopping center parking lot along Route 4 in Hamilton. (Photo By Nick Graham\Journal-News)
More than 100 cars lined up in Hamilton Friday to receive free food boxes as part of senior program sponsored by Shared Harvest food bank in Fairfield. More than 300 seniors who had signed up for the food giveaway came through the distribution center set up in a shopping center parking lot along Route 4 in Hamilton. (Photo By Nick Graham\Journal-News)

More than a hundred cars lined up at one time in Hamilton on Friday for a food giveaway to help area seniors struggling during the coronavirus.

Seniors, who had previously registered through Shared Harvest Food Bank to receive a 40-pound box of food, filed slowly in their vehicles as volunteers distributed the boxes in the parking lot of the former Jay’s Furniture story on Route 4.

“We’re giving out a lot of good food today,” said Robert Zohfeld, programs manager for Shared Harvest food bank in Fairfield, which serves the needy throughout Butler County.

“Seniors, if they are 60 years or older, can get a food box … (including) fresh chickens, eggs, apples, potatoes, onions,” said Zohfeld.

“We are expecting about 300-some families to come through today from our senior program. We have the emergency food assistance program where we get food from and federal food and we also have food from the Ohio agricultural program."

Earlier this month officials at Shared Harvest learned a fourth round of the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which contributed food to Friday’s distribution, has been authorized, meaning foodbanks will be able to maintain its food distribution levels through the end of 2020.

ExploreShared Harvest food issue delayed as federal program extended

In early November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture authorized $500 million for the fourth round of purchases, which will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, according to the agency.

The Farmers to Families program was scheduled to end at the end of this month, which would have reduced the amount of food Shared Harvest could distribute to the hundreds of area families seeking assistance.

The monthly food distribution events have plateaued at around 600 families per event, but that’s still three times the number served prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, said Terry Perdue, Shared Harvest Food Bank executive director.

In response to struggling families due to the economic hardships caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the federal government in mid-May launched the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. More than 35.5 million boxes were delivered in 45 days.

Friday’s distribution volunteers were joined by the National Guard in helping to hand out the food, he said.

“It’s so amazing to have so much help in Butler County and we’re happy to have their help,” said Zohfeld. “The Army National Guard has been such a help with everything we do at the (Shared Harvest) food bank."

Shared Harvest is developing a plan to prepare for the eventual cutoff of federal food supplies, and turning to national food manufacturers, like Kellogg, Nabisco and FritoLay, and local retailers.

Additionally, Shared Harvest can make any financial donation go further as every $1 donated can be converted into eight meals. For information and to help, go to Shared Harvest’s website.

Photographer Nick Graham contributed to this story

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