EATON — Nearly 500 area residents lined up at the Preble County Fairgrounds on Friday, July 15 for a mass food distribution. A joint effort between Foodbank Dayton and CareSource to give low- to moderate-income families access to fresh produce, the morning event saw cabbage, collard greens, cucumbers, corn, watermelon, potatoes, and sweet potatoes doled out to families in need who arrived with bags and bins.
The event was planned for 9-11 a.m., but citizens began lining up around 6:30 a.m. and more than 50 people were in line when volunteers arrived at 7:30 a.m.
“When we got there,” said CareSource Foundation executive director Cathy Ponitz, “I walked outside to say hello to people and tell them we’d try to get the doors early for them because they’d come out so early, and the first people in line were a young couple. They had two little girls, maybe 4 and 6 years old. The father was a young man with a boot cast on his leg. There was no place to sit down, and I asked, ‘Can I get you a chair? Are you okay on that leg?’ and he said, ‘No, this’ll be worth it. I really need this for my family.’”
“That really got to me,” she said. “To put aside your pride and come stand in line among people who might be your neighbors, or total strangers, and say ‘I need some help…’ I do this every day, but I will tell you, I walked around the side of the building and had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat thinking about this sweet, young family living in Preble county somewhere, who just needed food. I had to take a couple deep breaths on that one.”
“There are over 127,000 people in our tri-county area who are ‘food insecure,’” said Foodbank Dayton development and grants manager Lee Alder Truesdale. “That means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. 13.1% of the population living in Preble County is food insecure, 5,510 people.”
CareSource and Foodbank stage three mass food distributions annually; August’s event will take place in Xenia, and September’s in Dayton.
“Sometimes life slaps you in the face,” said Ponitz of CareSource’s mission to help underprivileged families in the region, “and it’s often not your fault, and you just need a minute to regroup. And sometimes a minute is a year, and sometimes a minute is five years. It’s often so situational.”
“Caresource funds the program,” Alder Truesdale said, “which covers the staff, the gas for the trucks to transport everything, and the food. They send dozens of volunteers, as many as 100 sometimes, and help people through the line, help people carry food to their cars, and run the whole thing for the day. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Last week’s event was run by 48 CareSource volunteers, including social workers and 18 college interns.
“The good thing,” Ponitz said, “is the food insecurity numbers for Preble County have slightly decreased from last year. So we’re making a dent.”