When you think of food insecurity, who or what comes to mind? For many, food insecurity paints a picture of poverty stricken neighborhoods that suffer from high unemployment rates and individuals who lack access to healthy foods. Although correct, you may not realize that food insecurity could be closer to you than you think.
Even in high-income areas, like Worthington, OH, individuals can be food insecure. These people could be your neighbors, co-workers, friends of your children, or members of your faith group. Even with an improving economy, food insecurity continues to exist. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus is one of the most economically segregated cities in America.
In Franklin County, 17.4% of the population (212,050 individuals) are food insecure.1 That’s nearly 1 in 5 people in Central Ohio who lack the access to needed resources to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
On June 28, staff at the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians volunteered at the Worthington Resource Pantry to help count, weigh, and organize perishable and non-perishable items. “We rely heavily on our volunteer force,” said Janet George Blocher, communications specialist at the Worthington Resource Pantry. “Our volunteers generate enough support to employ 10 full-time workers.”
Last year, the Worthington Resource Pantry served nearly 1,500 families (equating to 31,000 individuals) and provided 273,620 meals. With more than 40% of food being wasted in the United States, the Worthington Resource Pantry works to recover food faster by partnering with local grocery stores and schools to address food insecurity. More than half of their food donations come from local grocery store providers such as Target, Worthington Fresh Thyme, and the Hills Market at Worthington Hills.
They also partner with local schools by requesting students who don’t drink their milk to recycle it by placing it in a shared cooled container at the end of lunch. From there, a parent volunteer picks the milk up from the school and then drops it off at the pantry. By participating in this small request, kids are becoming involved at an early age about real issues that affect their communities. During the school year, 90% of the milk in the Worthington Resource Pantry comes from local schools.
Although, the city of Worthington would be considered to be more affluent than other neighborhoods in Central Ohio, 60% of their clients live in dense housing areas, are unemployed, and/or are seeking treatment for mental health-related issues.
Individuals participating in the food pantry program can receive groceries twice a month and generally only use the pantry as a last resort (also referred to as a stop gap), such as losing their ability to generate income.
When speaking to the types of clients they serve, Blocher quickly noted, “We don’t have clients, we have neighbors. We’re feeding our neighbors.” The Worthington Resource Pantry offers multiple services and programs to help alleviate hunger and food insecurity within six different zip codes.
For more information about donations or volunteer opportunities at the Worthington Resource Pantry visit its website. To date, the OAFP staff has contributed a total of 51 hours of community service, with a commitment to complete 70 hours by the end of the year to honor the 70th anniversary of the Academy.
For more information about the Academy’s community service initiative, visit the OAFP website. And, watch future editions of the Weekly Family Medicine Update to see where the OAFP staff and members volunteers next!