Free Produce Distributed In Driving Park Community

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On this holiday weekend, one Columbus neighborhood nourished the body as well as the spirit in a special food drive.

The rates of obesity and diabetes are high, and opportunities few in the Driving Park neighborhood of Columbus.

“We have quite a few convenience stores in this area, and it's not a nutritional type of meal, so the children don't have the access to this fresh fruit and vegetables,” said Nina Craddolph of the Welcome Home Foundation.

Vacant houses and boarded up buildings stand where grocery stores won't.

“Because there's a high level of poverty, it's also not a prime location for stores themselves to locate to provide more nourishing food for them," said Pastor Carl Rayburn of the Hope Lutheran Church.

For many, a lack of money and transportation leave the corner store as their primary option for buying groceries.

Not anymore.

“You've got melons, you've got your lettuce, you've got mushrooms, and bananas, tomatoes, and stuff like that," said Jamal Stephens, who lives in the neighborhood.

He says this fresh produce is a blessing to his family on this holiday weekend.

“We need food. It's a lot of hungry people out here sometimes and it's good to supplement the things we have at home," Stephens added.

The fresh produce distribution is an effort by Welcome Home Ohio, Hope Lutheran Church and the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

It’s the first of its kind in this east side neighborhood.

Driving Park has been a food desert for more than a decade.

"It's a wonderful community filled with people with the same dreams and goals of people in every community -- to have a job, good housing, good schools, a future for them and their kids -- but some special challenges as well," said Pastor Rayburn.

In a neighborhood where drive-thru windows are more plentiful than grocery store shelves, organizers say one distribution isn't the solution - but it is a start.

This first distribution was three months in the making, but by the turnout, organizers say the need is clear.  

They are planning to hold more events like this in the future.