food insecurity

Not In Our Town digests concerns about area hunger

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Not In Our Town monthly meetings normally focus on standing up against hatred and discrimination. On Thursday, the members talked about standing up for those who are hungry. A recent survey showed that college campuses across the nation are seeing a great deal of “food insecurity.” “We should think of how we’re going to meet that need,” said Christy Lunceford, campus chair of the Not In Our Town Bowling Green organization. “I don’t think the initiatives are meeting the need right now.” While most of that hunger may be faced by students, faculty and staff members aren’t immune, Lunceford said. “We need to keep that on our radar,” she said. An open forum on hunger problems is being planned, she added. “If a student says, ‘I don’t have food for the weekend,’ what do we do,” Lunceford said. The problem reaches beyond college campuses, said Heather Sayler, a member of Not In Our Town. “Let’s be honest. That happens at our city schools.” Sometimes the barrier is not distance but attitudinal. Some BGSU students whose driver’s licenses don’t reflect their residency here in Bowling Green, are turned away for not having the right paperwork, said Katie Stygles, of NIOT. “Sometimes students are treated in negative ways,” Stygles said. “That’s setting up a barrier for students.” Sayler, who also volunteers with the food pantry at First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green, said she has heard similar concerns voiced by senior citizens about other pantry locations. Across Wood County, more people are turning to food pantries to help feed their families. Some food banks offer food once a month, others whenever needed. Some require proof of need, others ask for nothing. Sayler said there are many food programs available. Often the problem is a lack of awareness. So last year, people representing food pantries throughout Wood County gathered at the United Way office in Bowling Green to collect information on all the grassroots efforts to help the hungry. Information was recorded on how often food is available, how much food is given per person, and how families qualify at each operation. The details have been updated in the county’s “211” help telephone system, so when people call for help they are directed to the place most able to assist. A list of the food pantries in Wood County and the surrounding area can be found at: http://www.referweb.net/211toledo/MatchList.aspx?c;;0;;N;0;0;Family%20Support%20and%20Parenting;Military%20Family%20Support;54;Food%20Pantries~ The website lists 18 sites in Wood County, plus gives details such as who qualifies, the type of documentation needed, the pantry location and hours, and how often someone can pick up food. In addition to bags of groceries, many of the sites offer such help as free meals, laundry and shower services, clothing, kitchenware, toiletries and baby items. Others provide car care, used furniture or…


More county residents turn to food pantries for help

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Across Wood County, more people are turning to food pantries to help feed their families. Some food banks offer food once a month, others whenever needed. Some require proof of need, others ask for nothing. “We’re seeing more food insecurity,” said Sue Clanton, director of United Way in Wood County. So last month, people representing food pantries throughout Wood County gathered at the United Way office in Bowling Green to collect information on all the grassroots efforts to help the hungry. Information was recorded on how often food is available, how much food is given per person, and how families qualify at each operation. The details will be updated in the county’s “211” help telephone system, so when people call for help they can be directed to the place most able to assist. In addition to bags of groceries, many of the sites offer such help as free meals, laundry and shower services, clothing, kitchenware, toiletries and baby items. Others provide car care, used furniture or community garden crops. Many of the operations are hosted by churches. Some are open multiple days a week, others once a month. “We don’t turn anyone away hungry,” said a volunteer with St. Thomas More’s food pantry in Bowling Green. First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green averages 200 clients a month at its food program, Heather Sayler said. The church has four freezers, and may need to add another for the program. “We’re looking at harnessing our volunteers,” with more than 50 a month, she said. “Long-term we’re looking at home delivery.” Perrysburg Christians United offers food once a month, and help with rent and utilities for people at risk or eviction or having their utilities cut. The Brown Bag program in Bowling Green is open three days a week. The site has no “means testing,” and provided for about 17,000 meals last year. “We help people in urgent crisis in need of food,” Gwen Andrix said. “All it takes is for someone to say, ‘I don’t know where I’m going to get my next meal.’” Many people are falling through the cracks, according to Andrix. All it takes is one unexpected car repair, sickness or a spouse leaving to push someone into poverty. So people are also offered a sheet listing local resources – “to hopefully find a lasting solution to whatever situation they are in.” The Brown Bag program also tries to offer delivery 24/7. “If you call us today, I will try to get food to you today,” Andrix said. The Otsego Food Pantry has served families in that school district for more than 20 years. “We wanted to make sure children were being served,” said Lisa Hatfield. That program tries to provide enough food and toiletries to last seven to 10…


Brown Bag Food Project has a place of its own

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Brown Bag Food Project has moved into its own place. The project, which provides emergency food and other supplies to people in crisis, has taken up residence at 115 W. Merry St., Unit B, in Bowling Green. It had been operating out of the home of founder Amy Jo Holland’s mother. Now Brown Bag will start holding regular hours for people to drop off food and other household items and for people in need to pick up deliveries. The office will be open Monday and Wednesday, 5 to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Holland said people can still call at other times. The number is 419-960-5345. Brown Bag provides five-days of food and sanitary products. The idea is to step in at a time of most need and to direct families to get more permanent assistance. People can only use the service once in a six-month period. According to the project, about 15 percent of people in Wood County experience food insecurity.   Holland said the project assists about 200 people a month. Gwen Andrix, member of the board, said they get a couple calls a day. Holland started Brown Bag last year when she realized that some of her co-workers at WalMart didn’t have enough to eat. The project received its tax-exempt status in June. “It was always part of our dream to get a place,” said Andrix. The project got some donations that allowed it to have a capital budget and start looking for a place this summer. The West Merry Street location is just about perfect, she said. The building is just outside the downtown area, a block off North Main Street, near Newman’s Marathon. “It’s easy to find,” Holland said. The space seemed a little tight at first, but the board made it work. The office furnishing were all contributed by Bowling Green State University’s Office of Sustainability.  “They were very generous,” Amy Jeffers, another board member, said. The shelving was either donated or paid for with donations. This is important given the project’s meager $30,000 budget for the year. The value of a food distribution can be as much as $100 depending on the number of people in the family. The project has two freezers and a refrigerator. Fresh food includes eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, cold cuts, butter, hot dogs, and cottage cheese. There’s also frozen vegetables and bread donated by the Perrysburg Panera to supplement the boxed and canned items. That means, Andrix said, clients “can sit down and have a balanced meal just like anyone else.” Now with storage available, the project hopes to expand the number of food drives it holds. The project coordinates the local Martin Luther King Day of Service food drive. Right now they have…


Brown Bag Food Project needs help to keep helping those in need

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Brown Bag Food Project had a successful first year by the only measure that matters: 782 people fed, 104 of those in the month of April alone. The grassroots food effort has been so successful, it’s now finding itself short of resources to help those in need. This summer as it marks its first year of existence it has its work cut out for it. Still the founder Amy Jo Holland and the project’s board members are optimistic they will find a way to continue the work she started. The Brown Bag Food project helps meet the immediate needs of folks who find themselves in hard times. The project can offer four to five days’ worth of food, and does so without income checks or referrals. And that food includes fresh dairy, meat and vegetables not usually found at food pantries. The project also can provide toiletries, personal hygiene products and diapers that Food Stamps won’t cover. And the project can arrange the delivery of these items during off hours when convenient for people who are working. Project volunteers try to help their clientele find more permanent assistance. “We try to be a guide not just temporary help,” said board member Amy Jeffers. All this is done “no questions asked,” said board member Nathan Eberly. Holland started the effort a couple years ago. She works at WalMart and discovered that some of her co-workers were going several days without eating. So she started helping them out. The effort grew. For a while the project helped people in Toledo as well, but that “overwhelmed” the fledgling effort, Eberly said. So the Brown Bag Project concentrated on Wood County. There’s enough need close to home. In Wood County 13.7 percent of residents experience food insecurity – they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. In some families adults will skip meals so the kids can eat, Jeffers said. Eberly said he knew Holland from other social activism and decided to help her with accounting and money management. They were able to complete the paperwork to get non-profit status by July. Besides decreasing stocks and financial resources, one of the obstacles the Brown Bag Food Project faces is the lack of a permanent location to store its food. Right now Holland’s mother is storing it for them. If they had a permanent home, Eberly said, they would be able to purchase food from the Northwest Ohio Food bank for a deep discount. He said they are working with local landowners to try to find a place. The project also has some events planned for this summer to try to replenish its stocks of food and bank account. A food drive will be held at the Bowling Green WalMart June 3 from noon to 7…