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Foodbank program distribution

With onions, potatoes, chocolate milk and frozen pizzas in hand volunteers handed out food to Washington County residents at the fairgrounds Wednesday.

“One family gets a third of a box of sweet potatoes, three bags of onions, three bags of apples, two gallons of milk, 10 pounds of potatoes, a box of frozen pizzas, some cottage cheese and a package of Hawaiian sweet buns,” explained Travis Gee, an employee of Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action, parent of the the Southeast Ohio Foodbank program. “This is the most necessary time of the year for aid for a lot of people.”

In the frigid temperatures volunteers worked alongside Gee to load a long line of vehicles for two hours with the food distribution sponsored by AEP Ohio.

Within the first hour, 75 families were served, with an additional 38 vehicles still wrapped around the back road of the fairgrounds holding between one and four household representatives per car.

“The line isn’t nearly as long as last time,” said Gee.

But nearly half of those families who showed up for the aid weren’t pre-registered through Job and Family Services.

“Still, this is the time of year when bills are higher and they have to get school kids warmer clothes,” said Gee.

Retired Nurse Bonita Hurst, of Marietta, said she only recently found out about the mobile food pantry and appreciated the help.

“You lose a lot of your income when you retire,” she said. “But the bills aren’t getting any cheaper and there aren’t a lot of programs for people like us… It’s going to be very helpful with groceries this winter.”

Volunteers Larry Kennedy, of Cutler, and Gail Peterson, of Waterford, both said they arrived with the intent to help, not judge.

“It’s fun to do service now that I have time in retirement,” said Peterson. “And you meet a lot of nice people that just need a little help.”

Even Marietta College freshman Leah Seaman, of Phillipi, W.Va., braved the cold to make sure others were fed this winter.

“I was just thinking about finals week and how I think about myself too much,” she said. “Then I thought it’s about time to get out of my dorm and help someone else.”

Norma Tait and Connie Backus, both of Marietta, were certainly appreciative of the aid.

“We’re on a fixed income,” said Tait. “So this can let us stay warm and help with meals.”

But the two asked not to be given onions, instead only taking what they would use.

“We don’t eat onions so there’s no reason for us to take them if someone else can use them,” explained Backus. “We understand there are other people like us or those with a greater need.”

At a glance

¯ The Southeast Ohio Foodbank set up a mobile food pantry at the Washington County Fairgrounds Wednesday.

¯ Food items were given away to income eligible families who are at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and are residents of Washington County.

¯ More than 100 families were served Wednesday.

Source: Southeast Ohio Foodbank and Times research.

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