How to get food if you don’t have a car

The Ohio National Guard is helping food pantries pack boxes during the coronavirus pandemic. STAFF/JIM NOELKER
The Ohio National Guard is helping food pantries pack boxes during the coronavirus pandemic. STAFF/JIM NOELKER

Many food pantries have moved to a drive-thru format due to the coronavirus. But what if you don’t have a car to go to the drive-thru?

At The Foodbank in Dayton, there is a walk-up window that anyone who doesn’t arrive in a car can use, said Lee Lauren Truesdale, chief development officer at The Foodbank.

The Dayton RTA bus line 8 drops riders off closest to their building at 56 Armor Place.

“We encourage people without access to transportation to carpool with someone they know who does have access to a car,” Truesdale said. “Transportation is a huge barrier to getting food in a lot Mid-Western or Rust Belt states, like Ohio.”

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People don’t have access to transportation for a number of reasons, aside from not being able to afford a car, Truesdale said. Some people don’t have a driver’s license, some have a car but can’t afford to put gas in the tank or others have a car but it is cost prohibitive to fix it.

Truesdale said the walk-up window has been busier this week with bus-riders, bike-riders and those walking.

Marilyn Harper, executive director of The Hearth Community Place, said the food pantry has moved to a “drive-by” format. Clients can drive up to the building at 3415 Linden Ave. and get food put into their cars on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For those who don’t have a car, there is a walk-up table available, Harper said. Since they moved their operations outside about three weeks ago, Harper said there have been about 10 new people a week at the walk-up table.

The Hearth Community Place has gone from serving abut 600 a week to serving about 800 a week, according to Harper.

“I think we’re going to continue seeing bigger numbers even once they start reopening things,” Harper said. “This problem isn’t going to go away over night.”

House of Bread, while not a food pantry, has also seen an increase in new faces. The majority of people who use the House of Bread soup kitchen don’t have transportation, said Executive Director Melodie Bennett.

House of Bread, with the approval of Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County, lets 10 people into their building at 9 Orth Ave. at a time.

“They can use the bathroom, fill up their water bottle, take a coffee or milk to go and carry out a lunch,” Bennett said.

The House of Bread serves lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Haley Carretta, the food systems program manager at Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County, said that there were food access issues in Dayton and Montgomery County before the pandemic caused many to lose their jobs. There are several areas in Dayton and Montgomery County that are considered a food desert, Carretta said.

Food deserts occur when there are pockets of the population that live more than one mile from a supermarket in urban or suburban areas and more than 10 miles from a supermarket in rural areas.

“Right now, a lot of new people are seeking food that hadn’t before, so there’s this whole new group of folks who have never had to live through food insecurity before,” Carretta said. “But we’re also seeing that the problem is getting worse where it already existed.”

Public Health has determined that it needs to keep focusing on food deserts. Public Health estimates that about 22% of children experience food insecurity. Carretta said that people outside of food deserts are also experiencing the same food access problems.

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“Of course we’re going to have folks in Centerville or other places that we don’t typically talk about as food deserts like we do West Dayton or Trotwood, but there’s people there that are dealing with the exact same issues,” Carretta said. “It’s not really friendly to walk in some of these areas. If you are someone who lacks transportation its going to be really difficult for you no matter where you live to access food.”

Truesdale encouraged those without transportation to use their local food bank or to check with a church near them to see if their food pantry is still operating.

The Foodbank had a drive-thru on Monday and will have another drive-thru pantry on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon.

To get help or guidance on where to seek food assistance near you, call the Foodbank’s emergency line at (937) 949-4096 or the United Way’s 211 help line.

Carretta said The Foodbank and the United Way of the Greater Dayton area can tell those in need where the closest food pantry to them is and give them the hours of that pantry.

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