COLUMBUS, Ohio — The year 2020 brought the COVID-19 pandemic and, along with that, an increase in food insecurity. That led tens of thousands more families to seek help from the Mid-Ohio Food Collective.
“There are a lot of people who may have never been on food assistance before, some people who may have been out of a job for the first time in a very long time, they’re in need of help,” said Malik Perkins, public relations manager for Mid-Ohio Food Collective. “And we want them to know, hey, you can come to us, you can come to one of our partner agencies. We are here to help you. This is what our mission is. We’re here with you and for you. There’s absolutely no shame and no stigma in being in need of help, especially during these times.”
Perkins said the Mid-Ohio Food Collective pantry saw more than 1 million visits in 2020 by 180,977 different families.
The year before, the figures were 951,735 total visits by 158,144 different families.
One of the 2020 customers was Jami Clinkscale, who is responsible for providing food for at least four people on a regular basis. She told 10TV in December she was grateful for the help.
“It kinda repairs the hope in humanity,” she said. “It’s not allowing someone to go hungry at night, going to bed on an empty stomach, and not going to bed on an empty stomach, I believe, is like the highest form of appreciation.”
That help is possible because of community support, grants and corporate sponsors, Perkins said.
Also, last March, roughly 100 National Guard members were called in to help. Around 50 will still be helping into the new year.
But volunteers, like Phil Rowe, are still needed.
“When I was growing up, kinda poor, both parents had two jobs but always volunteered, and that kinda taught us to always give back,” he said. “If you can’t give back money, give back time, and I was able to do both.”
Rowe first started volunteering for the Mid-Ohio Food Collective back in 2012. Now he helps four to five days a week, greeting customers as they arrive for help.
“Most of them, very appreciative,” he said. “I’ve had a few that probably brought me to tears by stopping to say they pray for us, just for our safety, but very appreciate. They stay. Some of them that have pets, these pets look forward to the same people petting them all the time. They’ll stop when they’re pulling by you to just thank you for your time, your effort to help them. So, by and far, most of them are very, very appreciative and make sure you know it.”
To continue to meet the need, Mid-Ohio is expanding its hours starting Monday, Jan. 4. The food pantry will be open 40 hours a week, with times on every day except Sunday.
- Monday: 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
- Tuesday: 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
- Wednesday: 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
- Thursday: 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
- Friday: 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
- Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
- Sunday: Closed
“Really, expanding these hours is part of meeting the demand that has increased but also us just being a customer-centric organization,” Perkins said. “We want people to be able to come get the food when it’s most convenient for them.”
And Perkins says the organization is ready to keep meeting that demand into the year near, even on days when 1,000 families visit the food pantry.
“2020 was a challenging year,” he said. “We know it’s going to take some time for people to recover, but just know that we are here to support you, and there’s no stigma in needing help.”