CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Gov. Mike DeWine has deployed the National Guard to help Ohio food banks, which are seeing increased need as the novel coronavirus takes its toll on the state’s economy.
The Freestore Foodbank serves 20 counties over Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio and relies on 13,000 volunteers. But come Monday, those volunteers have to comply with the governor’s ‘Stay at home’ order, meaning the National Guard will take up their work.
“This is the first time we ever worked a disaster relief program like this, and this was not the kind that I was expecting,” Lt. Zachary Cook explained. “Normally we see National Guardsmen called up for things like hurricanes, tornadoes, so it’s actually great we’re able to assist, even if it’s in a manner people wouldn’t normally think of the National Guard as being utilized.”
The Freestore Foodbank is busy making boxes for seniors Monday but will transition to boxes for families and kids beginning tomorrow.
Freestore typically allows people in need to actually shop at their pantry on Liberty Street. That has been suspended for now to keep the safety of workers, guardsmen and customers in mind.
“This way we’re trying to limit the amount of touches our customers have, the families have, our donors, our volunteers as well as our staff,” Freestore Foodbank President and CEO Kurt Reiber said. “So we try and keep everyone safe, adhering to the governor’s and the CDC’s guidelines for not only disinfecting and sanitizing our operations, but also making sure we’re keeping everybody healthy and safe.”
A lot of the work, Cook says, is about distributing meals.
“We get to see the people that we’re helping first-hand there," he explained. "Here [in the warehouse] it’s a little different just because we actually get to see how much we have done.”
There is no telling how long the guard will be helping at this food bank, but they will be here until the job is done.
“The rest of the soldiers I work with are very glad to be here," Cook said. “Very excited to be able to help the community in every way they possibly can.”
Freestore is asking you to donate online or hold a virtual food drive. They are not accepting donations at the food bank at this time.
For more information on how to help, click here.