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Food bank feeds hundreds of families in Washington County

Members of the National Civilian Community Corps were on hand to help distribute food from the Southeast Ohio Food Bank on Friday morning at the Washington County Fairgrounds. (Photo by Michele Newbanks)

MARIETTA — More than 400 Washington County families were given 45,000 pounds of food Friday morning at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

Distributed through the Southeast Ohio Foodbank, the food consisted of frozen chicken, canned beef, 10 pounds of potatoes, cream of mushroom soup, apples, pears and dried fruit and nuts.

Claire Gysegem, public relations manager for Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, said they are trying to get out into communities more often. The last time they were in Washington County was last summer.

HAPCAP is the parent organization of the foodbank, which distributes purchased food to member agencies across the state, including almost a dozen food pantries in Washington County.

“This is the largest distribution I’ve been to,” Gysegem said. “The demand is so high. We had pre-registration which filled up within 36 hours, and it opened for another 200 families.”

Guidelines restrict the food assistance to families within 230 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, the maximum the household could make is $59,225.

There was no sponsor for this mobile distribution, but the food came from the foodbank’s warehouse.

“We were so happy to be able to come and distribute the product we have,” Gysegem said.

Members of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps helped load boxes of food into the vehicles, which started lining up at 6 a.m. for the 10 a.m. start.

Team leader Casen McMahan, 23, of Dallas, Texas, said the team consisted of people from all over the country. He’s been in the program since June and they move areas every few months. They recently were in northern Minnesota, where their goal is to help “community nonprofits.”

He got into the NCCC after graduating from University of North Texas with a degree in political science and communications.

“I got involved in a local nonprofit,” he said. “I like figuring out new communities, learning more about the communities and figuring out the best ways to help them.”

Marietta-Belpre Health Commissioner Anne Goon talked Friday about how unemployment has stabilized in the Mid-Ohio Valley. But lower unemployment rates have not changed the food insecurity of some county residents.

“For the first time, our local numbers are again higher than the state numbers, whereas they had been lower all along,” she said.

Until February and March, before the pandemic, the Washington County unemployment rate was higher.

“It looks like we’re reverting back to the previous trend,” she said.

The unemployment rate in Ohio in March was 5.8 percent, with 6.7 percent in the Mid-Ohio Valley and 7.1 percent in Washington County.

The rates jumped to more than 17 percent in the state in April and almost 15 percent in Washington County. In December, preliminary unemployment rates were 5.5 percent in Ohio and 5.9 percent in Washington County.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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