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Thinking Outside of the Box to Feed Ohio's Hungry

August 1, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - From Meals on Wheels to feeding Head Start students, Community Action Agencies in Ohio run various food programs throughout the year. And this summer, many agencies are thinking outside the box as they implement unique ways of getting food to people who need it.

Hocking Athens Perry Community Action is running a program in which animals are donated from fair auctions. Nutrition director Dick Stevens says they've had a great response, which works out well because meat is one of the hardest food donations to come by.

"This was more or less a novel way of trying to get high-quality protein into the hands of the families we serve and help our pantries, who are overstretched with the demand."

Some CAAs are participating in the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry Program, where venison is processed and then donated. And some agencies are operating growing gardens or giving out vouchers that are good at farmers' markets so people can have access to fresh produce.

Sara Valentine is administrative assistant for SOURCES, the CAA for Mercer and Auglaize Counties, which runs a big giving garden. She says the produce is a great addition to the non-perishable items they already donate. And she says the garden has been a terrific experience for the agency and the community.

"The greatest thing the garden has done for us is not only to help the people in our community, but it's also brought our community together to help others, and it's a project so many people can be involved in, and so many businesses and organizations."

Jill Lee is the director of the Crawford County Center, which is part of Ohio Heartland Community Action. They're running a summer backpack program that provides food for the weekend for low-income children. This year they've served an average of 60 kids a week.

"One little guy goes home to his apartment and empties his bag and then rushes it right back over to make sure we can fill it for the next weekend. He said he kind of feels like it's an Easter basket every Friday."

According to a recent report from the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, 1.7 million Ohioans live in poverty.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH