Local Organizations Helping Food Insecure Families During Summer Months

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Southeastern Ohio counties lead the state in poverty rates, and with school now out of session for the summer, many struggling families are put in tough positions when their children no longer receive free or discounted daily meals.

In Athens County nearly 20% of families are food insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food.  Surrounding counties have similar rates of insecurity as well, according to the Feeding America Network.

Local organizations however are working hard to keep families from going hungry.  Meigs County has a supplemental nutrition plan for women, infants and children which, according to director Sherry Eagle, works to provide mothers with the proper education and resources to provide their families with healthy food.

“When school’s going on it’s easy to get a lunch, it’s easy to get a meal. But when school’s out it’s not as easy for a child to get a meal,” says Eagle.  “A good healthy meal, so we try to teach mom to buy locally, to buy fresh and with different recipes and different things we can offer her”

Child care can also be a large burden on struggling families, who not only may lack the time to properly watch their children, but also the resources to pay for child care when higher priorities such as food are hard to meet as well.

Nelsonvilles “Hive” is a free childcare facility, open weekdays from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  Funded through grants, they have no waiting list and will watch and feed any children whose families can provide proof of residence in Nelsonville.

“There’s several kids that come in that are hungry and ready to eat as soon as they get in,” says Ashley Conley, childcare professional at the Hive.  “And we’ve been doing a lot of swimming lately, so we offer food before and after we come back to make sure they’re sent home with a fully belly as well.”

Athens County Child Services also works to provide affordable and free food to those in need.  And when school is out of session in the summer, many children lose the daily meals they’re able to get from school during the year.  Robin Webb helps run the organization’s weekly “Peanut Butter and Jelly Project”, which sends children home with sandwich supplies and a backpack full of other nutritious foods in an effort to help them and their families through the week.

“We believe it’s very necessary based solely on how quickly we run out of supplies every week,” says Webb. “We say we set up at 11 and we’ll be there until 1:00 or until supplies run out, and it’s usually when supplies run out. And so that tells us that the demand is there.”

A list of local food banks in Ohio can be found here.