SSCH Mobile Pantry Makes A Difference In Linden

I walked up to our Food and Nutrition Center, where Donna and Sherri were already busy loading the white truck with food bags. They were having a conversation about how they could fit more food in the truck to serve more people.

“We can fit about 30 bags of food now, but if we build a shelf in the truck, we can almost double that,” Sherri explained to me while her, Donna, and Chris created a supply line. Chris brought out carts of full food bags, Donna handed them to Sherri, and Sherri loaded them into the truck.

“We can expand to more areas if we are able to fit more in the truck,” said Sherri.

Today I am riding along with Donna and Sherri, who deliver food and other resources Monday-Friday. Each day they focus on different neighborhoods and apartment complexes. This program began during the pandemic, when it became clear that people were not only having a hard time affording food, but also finding a way to get to it.

It was Thursday, so along with the normal food bags Donna and Sherri prepared “specialty bags,” which were tailored for each of the individuals they would see that day. These bags contained diapers and other baby supplies for mothers, adult diapers for seniors, and various hygiene items that were requested at their different stops. They put together these special packs and I watched as they labeled each with the initials of the consumers they were going to.

Once all supplies were loaded into the truck, they latched the door and started on their route.

Sherri delivering food bags to a consumer.

We began our route by making deliveries at eight different houses. At each stop, Sherri would hand deliver the food bag to the door, often making small talk with whoever answered. It was clear that they were not only providing resources, but also building relationships.

After we finished our home deliveries, we parked at an apartment complex. Donna explained to me that anyone at the apartment complex was able to receive a bag, they just needed to come to the truck and register. Many residents of this building now stop at the truck weekly and can receive this assistance without worrying about transportation.

While we were set up at the apartment complex, I watched as a woman approached the truck to inquire about the services. Once Donna informed her that she could take a food bag at that very moment, the woman let out a sigh of relief and said,

It was between groceries and utilities this week, I’m so glad I ran into you.”

Our last stop was at a campus of sorts for teens and young adults that have been displaced for various reasons: parental abuse, neglect, etc. These young people lined up and chatted with Donna and Sherri as we checked them in.

With each bag I handed out I was met with an overflow of appreciation. Some of the teens and young adults had children, who asked if they could help carry the food and giggled with excitement when they saw cookies in the bag.

After we had served the last of our bags, I spoke with Donna about the impact that a bag of groceries can have on someone in crisis, and why her job is so important.

“I love interacting with my community, hearing their stories and helping them with their needs. It’s about being there for them.”

I see Donna and Sherri daily, quietly packing their truck and going about their business. I’ve always known that they were doing important work, but I was especially moved after my day spent with them– taking away burdens on an individual level further solidified the need for these programs.

Food delivery programs will not solve poverty or hunger crises, nor will they change the systems that make the cycle of poverty hard to break. The work that Donna and Sherri do every day provides relief and lightens the very heavy load that many in our community are forced to carry. As the woman above said, that bag of groceries allowed her to keep her electricity on. She now knows that every Thursday, she will have a bag of food waiting for her.

A bag of groceries may not be world altering, but for many it can be life changing.

The mobile food delivery program is an extension of the food delivery program that was offered through SMART Columbus. When our program funding ran out in March, we realized that the need was still there. We are grateful to have the resources and funding to be able to continue serving our community in this way. A huge thank you to the City of Columbus for funding the extension of this program.

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