Traveling Food Pantry Provides 500 Meals in Warren

WARREN, Ohio – As stay-at-home restrictions life and Ohio takes steps toward a sense of normalcy, there is still work to be done for Mike Iberis, executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley. 

The Second Harvest Food Bank has made dozens of stops throughout the area since the Ohio National Guard began providing assistance in March. It’s latest stop was Mollenkopf Stadium next to Warren G. Harding High School, where the nonprofit distributed 500 meals to families on Thursday.

“[The Warren City School administration] has done a phenomenal job at organizing this,” Iberis said. “They have a dozen or more people from their staff that are organizing the traffic flow and they’re doing a great job.”

Iberis says Second Harvest Food Bank plans to conduct two to three food distributions per week over the summer. While many residents are returning to work, there is still a significant number of unemployed residents, he said.

“As long as the need is there, we’re going to be in these three counties making sure people in emergency situations get the food they need,” Iberis said.

John Lacey, executive director of business operations at Warren City Schools, said the school district notified parents of the food distribution on Wednesday. 

“We were trying to impact as many of our families as we could and get them in attendance,” Lacey said. “This was just the turnout from yesterday evening until this morning.”

The Warren City School District has provided lunches for students and plans to continue to support the students over the summer. As of Thursday, the school district has provided approximately 100,000 lunches to Warren students.

While the school district is helping those in Warren, the food bank is covering the three-county area. Iberis says the food bank has been “fortunate” to have the help of the National Guard since volunteers have been told to stay home.

The food bank is “taking it week by week” as it pertains to its supply, he said, and though the need for distribution is increasing, the food is available. The 500 meals distributed in Warren is a sign that the need locally is unchanged, he said.

Currently, food pantries are helping 18,000 people a week – a 35% to 40% increase since the area began dealing with COVID-19, Iberia reported.

“So far we’ve been able to keep up. Barely, but we have been able to keep up. And we’re just hopeful that it will continue through the summer,” Iberis said.

Second Harvest has focused its resources on helping children and students while distributing food, Iberia said. He called child hunger “the epicenter of hunger” in the area and credited the school districts with their approach to dealing with the problem.

Lacey echoed Iberis’ thoughts on child hunger, saying he hopes the community understands that the schools will continue to help as the academic year ends.

“Just because the classrooms are closed it doesn’t mean we’re not working really hard,” Lacey said.

Pictured: Members of the Ohio National Guard assist food distribution to Warren residents at Mollenkopf Stadium.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.