The impact of the coronavirus pandemic was in full view Tuesday when thousands of Dayton-area people, some waiting for more than three hours, stood in line for free food distribution outside Wright State’s Nutter Center.
Members of the Ohio National Guard and volunteers from The Foodbank distributed food to 4,500 people representing 1,381 households at the mass distribution, according to staff.
Even though many were served, thousands more were turned away.
Many who received the aid expressed their gratitude. Some people were frustrated with the long wait.
Melissa and Jared Markland said they waited in line for nearly three hours. The mother and son have used food assistance before but said they’d never seen lines like that.
“These are necessary precautions,” Jared Markland said.
“I don’t like (everything being closed and having to stay at home), but we don’t have to like it,” Melissa Markland said. “We want to be alive.”
Sisters Lisa Patton, 57, and Teresa Nichols, 51, said they had never used food assistance before the coronavirus disrupted their lives. They traveled nearly 45 minutes from Tipp City to get food.
Nichols is a self-employed dog washer and is out of work right now. She said the stimulus check helped her pay bills for this month.
Patton is disabled and not eligible for the federal stimulus check because her 77-year-old mother claims her on her taxes.
“I think (Gov. Mike DeWine) is doing the best he can with what he’s been dealt,” Nichols said.
“There’s not much else you can do,” Patton said. “We gotta get this over with. It’s rough out here.”
Several roads leading to the Nutter Center were clogged with traffic that was attempting to reach the site. Traffic even backed up onto the highway.
Nancy Kiehl was in line to get food for her elderly neighbor until noon when the gates to the Nutter Center were closed and many were turned away.
“People were upset and obviously in need,” Kiehl said. “The need is so great out there and I saw so many people who didn’t get served.”
Most who were in line said they waited between two and four hours to get into the lot, but once in, they were moved through quickly.
Thirty volunteers organized through Declare Dayton were helping distribute food on Tuesday. The Ohio National Guard also had 30 members on site to help pack and distribute the food. Jared Markland, who is also in the National Guard, said it was good to see to see the men and women in uniform at the Nutter Center.
Cpl. Harold Owens said he volunteered to be part of the food relief effort because he wanted to have a positive impact on the community he serves.
Owens worked as an assistant hotel manager in his civilian job. He has technically been laid off because of the coronavirus, but is able to still work with the National Guard.
“This is why a lot of us joined,” Owens said. “To help not only overseas, but stateside. I want to be that smiling face for people who are struggling right now.”
Food distribution was scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon, but people were asked to not start lining up until 9 a.m.
“Anyone in need can come,” said Lee Lauren Truesdale, chief development officer for The Foodbank. “People are just really struggling to make ends meet.”
Those who drove through got a wide variety of food, from fresh produce to canned goods and other non-perishables.
Truesdale said that during previous distribution events at the Nutter Center it served between 600 and 800 households, but it was prepared to serve 1,600 today. Wright State University has partnered with The Foodbank for mass food distributions for the last six years.
“We love the Greene County mass distribution. A huge thanks to the whole Wright State community for embracing this and always saying yes,” said Truesdale.
The Foodbank will operate its drive-through pantry at 56 Armor Place in Dayton on Wednesday, April 22 from 10 a.m. to noon. Truesdale encouraged those who didn’t make it through the line on Tuesday to go to The Foobank’s drive-through on Wednesday.
For help outside of food distribution hours, you can call The Foodbank at (937) 949-4096 or the United Way at 211.
Wright State’s Raider Food Pantry is also offering bags of three days’ worth of supplies, which students can request by calling 937-260-0167. They are available for pickup at the Residence Life and Housing package pick-up area Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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