MEDINA –– Feeding Medina County, the local agency dedicated to combating food insecurity, is starting to see a new population of residents in need of food: furloughed federal government employees.
Today marks the 35th day since the partial government shutdown led to more than 800,000 federal employees either going off the job or continuing to work without pay and the strain of now-two missed paychecks is being felt locally.
“Well, we actually had a food distribution event (Thursday) and we actually had one family that was there that was a furloughed worker,” Sandy Hinkle, executive director at Feeding Medina County, said Thursday.
And while the organization hasn’t seen a huge influx of people requesting help — despite advertising on Facebook — Feeding Medina County has helped a few families of furloughed workers and continues to hear from those wondering where they should turn next.
“We’ve had about three families inquire because we posted something on Facebook that, you know, for those families … if they needed food right away they could come here and we would make sure they have food,” Hinkle said.
“I actually had a lady call me last week and she was a government worker … she had two children in elementary school, so I informed her about the (Weekenders for Children) Program. I told her she could sign her kids up and they would start getting bags right away.”
A part of the National School Lunch Program, the effort includes a grocery bag of healthy foods that is prepared by volunteers to help fill the food gap in households ensuring that kids show up for school on Monday mornings ready to learn.
Hinkle said anyone in need can come in anytime for help. Still, those who run food agencies said they recognize their clients could shift if the shutdown continues.
“We recognize that there are many families in the Akron area that are feeling the effects of the government shutdown,” said Pastor Nanette Pitt of First Congregational Church of Akron.
“Our food pantry is open to all in the community that need a hand, be it for one month or for longer periods of time. If you are a government worker and are having trouble feeding your family, we encourage you to visit us during our food pantry hours and allow us to give you a hand during this uncertain time.”
The church’s food pantry ministry provides a distribution of groceries to people in need from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Tuesday mornings at 292 E. Market St., Akron.
The distribution of food through food pantries is one way to reduce the meal gap.
“If there are people out there who are affected by this, we would be just pleased to be able to help them,” said Libby Whipple who is on the board of the food pantry at the Medina United Methodist Church.
The church does not have any requirements for those who live within the 44256 Zip code.
“If they come in and tell us they need food, we will give it to them,” Whipple said. “There would be no pressure on them to provide something.”
The church’s food pantry is open from 5-7 p.m. Mondays and 1-3 p.m. Fridays.
The Salvation Army of Medina, 425 W. Liberty St., Medina, is another local resource willing to help.
All that the Salvation Army requires of people requesting help is proof of Medina County residency, said Salvation Army Lt. Christina Spencer. They have a few programs for those in need.
“We have obviously our food pantry,” said Spencer.
“We have a feeding program (MUNCH), which is going on this week until Saturday and then it’s every Wednesday and then we have miscellaneous services like electrical (bill) help and rental assistance and things like that.”
The Medina Methodist church and the Salvation Army have yet to see any furloughed government workers, but said they are open and willing to help.
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