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Coronavirus In Ohio: Food Pantries Convert To Drive-Thrus As Demand Jumps

Demand at the Nelsonville food pantry increased after the government shutdown, during which SNAP payments were altered for funding reasons.
Nick Evans
/
WOSU
Demand at the Nelsonville food pantry increased after the government shutdown, during which SNAP payments were altered for funding reasons.

Ohio food pantries are converting operations into drive-thru facilities to make it easier to help families in need while preventing the spread of the coronavirus. 

At St. Stephens Community House on the North Side, CEO Marilyn Mehaffie says the demand for food is skyrocketing. 

“We’ve served 304 households in last three days," says Mehaffie.  "That’s very unusual. Like I said, that’s up more than 50%."

But like many organizations, the pantry has had to change the way they conduct business amid Ohio's "stay at home" order and social distancing guidelines.

Mehaffie, staff and volunteers are handing out bags with a week’s worth of groceries as people drive up or walk up to the food pantry location at 1500 E. 17th Avenue. 

“That means people don’t have to get out of their cars to register,” Mehaffie says. “They just drive up where the signs are. They stop at the curb. We register them via tablet, then dependent on their family size, we bring them a box of food.”

Most boxes include non-perishables like pasta, canned vegetables, and fruit. If in stock, a protein like peanut butter or meat may also be included.

Mehaffie says the pantry is also trying to work safely for its workers as well.

“If you can imagine, we’re very short-staffed," Mehaffie says. "And we’re very dependent on volunteers but we also want to limit our volunteers, so we can minimize the risk of our staff and our volunteers catching any kind of infectious disease.”

The pantry is open every weekday, and Mehaffie assures that everyone will be served.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.