LOGAN — Free weekly food assistance has returned to the Hocking County Fairgrounds.
With the help of local volunteers, USDA Farmers to Families Food Boxes will be distributed every Tuesday at noon at the fairgrounds, 150 North Homer Avenue, into the late spring, Jillyan Adams, a distribution volunteer, said. Local distribution started up again this past Tuesday.
“We gave away all 135 boxes (last Tuesday),” Adams said. “We’re going to try to get more next week, but we just didn’t know if we’d have as many people come through the line because we got so much snow ... We may try to get closer to 200.”
The national initiative began in spring 2020 under the Trump administration, as an effort to buy surplus crops grown by farmers that weren’t being used due to the pandemic. The program came to Hocking County residents last November, Brian Neville, pastor at Antioch Alliance Church, said. Neville is one of two who pick up the boxes each week from Croton, Ohio.
According to a recent Household Pulse Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, 305,619 Ohioans reported that they often did not have enough food to eat last week, dated Jan. 20 through Feb.1.
There are no requirements or need for identification to receive a box at the fairgrounds; however, volunteers want to record where people are coming from, Neville said.
It usually takes about 45 minutes to distribute all the boxes, Neville said. Local first responders, from the Logan Police Department, Logan Fire Department, Hocking County Sheriff Department and more, help volunteer to distribute the boxes.
Distribution is usually a quick exchange, Neville explained. Boxes are distributed drive-thru style and each car receives one box, unless more than one household present. Boxes can be placed in trunks or back seats as a low-contact method.
“We typically give one box per family,” Neville said. “If there’s more than one family represented in the car, we give them more.”
The boxes are stuffed with a variety of goods, which varies week by week. The program not only helps farmers but also those who need food, both Adams and Neville said.
According to the USDA, 2.5 million food boxes were invoiced in round five, Jan. 19 to April 30. The combination boxes include fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk, meat products and now seafood products. Many items come from Ohio farms, Neville said.
Though rare, Adams said leftover boxes are donated to other local organizations like food pantries or the Hocking Hills Inspire Shelter.
Neville said he anticipates 200 boxes for next week’s distribution, and he expects the program to continue into May.
The next distribution scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 16 at noon at the Hocking County Fairgrounds.