Butler County food pantries change to drive-thrus, see increase for services

Butler County food pantries are facing extra challenges during the coronavirus.

They’re having to change their operational procedures at a time when need for services is rising, directors said.

Instead of allowing their clients inside to select their food items, pantries are offering drive-thru services to reduce the amount of contact they have with staff and volunteers. The changes were made last month after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine encouraged residents to stay at least six feet away from each other to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The coronavirus also has created a shortage of workers and volunteers at Family Service of Middletown, said Executive Director Maurice Maxwell. Because of the coronavirus shutdown, some of the people who typically help pass out food inside the pantry are unavailable. That has left Maxwell seeking about 10 volunteers.

Food is distributed at the pantry, 555 N. Verity Parkway, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. every Monday and Thursday. No registration is required and recipients are not asked to show proof of their residence or income.

They will receive a box that contains all the food groups, including meat, Maxwell said.

Once cars pull into the parking lot, volunteers load the boxes that weigh about 40 pounds into the vehicles, he said. There is minimum contact.

Maxwell said between 130 to 150 boxes are distributed twice a week and the need for services continues to rise.

“The need in the community is very high,” said Maxwell, who added Family Service receives daily calls from those who need assistance.

The same is true at the Fairfield Food Pantry, said Judy Dirksen, who co-founded the organization 23 years ago with her husband. She said more than 12,000 Fairfield residents received assistance in 2019, setting an all-time record.

That record is on pace to be broken this year, she said. In January, the pantry served about 1,300 clients, followed by 1,100 in February and 1,300 in March.

“We are filling a real need,” Dirksen said.

Before the coronavirus, clients came inside, showed proof of residence and were given a bag to fill with food off a table. Some of the items included fruits, vegetables, meat, and hygiene projects.

But now clients drive into the parking lot at 78 Donald Drive, open their trunk and a volunteer loads the groceries. The bag holds enough food for three days.

The pantry is open from noon to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Shared Harvest Foodbank, the organization that supplies local food pantries, distributed the same amount of food during a recent two-week period that it historically would pass out in two months, said Executive Director Terry Perdue.

In their past few distributions, officials have seen record numbers of people seeking food, even before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, he said.

Perdue said officials are seeing people at these distribution events that never before needed food assistance.

Family Service of Middletown

WHERE: 555 N. Verity Parkway

DISTRIBUTION TIMES: 9:30-11:30 a.m. Monday and Thursday

CALL: 513-423-4637

WEB SITE: fsmiddletown.org

Fairfield Food Pantry
WHERE: 78 Donald Drive
DISTRIBUTION TIMES: noon to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday
CALL: 513-829-9407
WEB SITE: www.fairfieldfoodpantry.org

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