SIDNEY — A local organization is committed to making sure residents in Shelby County don’t go hungry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Agape Distribution Center is currently aiding 1,700 people in Shelby County who may find it difficult to make ends meet with various shutdowns across Ohio over the past week due to concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19. They are putting together care packages of basic necessities from their food pantry. The packages include a variety of items, from crackers to peanut butter to box macaroni and cheese and more, and each bag weighs roughly 8 pounds. The goal is to provide families in need with enough essentials to get them through the week.
“We’re making it hard to go hungry. That’s what we do, that’s who we are,” Agape Distribution Director John Gessler said. “The idea was to be able to give them 12 bags of nuts and 12 packets of crackers and lots of things so they can snack all week, and it’s healthier stuff. It makes it a really good bag for the students, and they can use it all week.”
Agape is delivering packages to Fairlawn and Botkins schools for eligible families to pick up, and they will deliver certificates printed for this specific service to all other schools in Shelby County. Families receiving the certificates will be able to go to the food pantry and shop for the resources they need. Gessler anticipates that the number of people Agape will aid in the coming weeks will increase as the care package program continues. The food pantry is prepared to meet the needs of the community and is looking to continue the program through the end of April if necessary. Additionally, in April Agape will be giving families in need coupons so that they can shop for a full food order at Agape, instead of just receiving emergency supplies. This will include meat and fresh produce.
“We have a good supply, and we’re ready to serve. That’s what we do,” Gessler said. “It goes beyond the child, it goes into the family also.”
Part of the reason Agape is so equipped to offer this service to people in Shelby County is because they have what they call a “strategic reserve,” which is comprised of extra food that isn’t picked up and is instead placed in their warehouse in Sidney. The reserve is configured on an eight-week level, with the goal of providing basic nutrition for five to seven days so that the pantry can still serve the community in times of a crisis. Stock is rotated throughout their store, but the excess is kept in the reserve for when it is needed.
“The people who are most vulnerable and economically at risk can come to Agape and get groceries,” Gessler said.
While Agape has been in place in Sidney for 26 years, Gessler developed the plan for the reserve 18 years ago, and over time gathered the supplies necessary to sustain it. This is the first time he’s seen a crisis on this level and has put that resource in motion.
“What’s different about us from many other food pantries is, we source nationally. There’s groceries available in Texas that aren’t available in the surrounding states. That gives us better supply lines than most of the food banks in the area,” Gessler said. “That’s a Shelby County miracle.”
While the program is currently serving families with students in the Shelby County school system, anyone in need of these resources can visit Agape to sign up for a care package or contact 937-498-4368 for more information.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.