Hundreds in line for hours to take food to families

No households were turned away as the Ohio National Guard and local nonprofits distributed food and cleaning supplies to 1,270 families in Miami County on Saturday, which organizers considered a success.

About 800 cars began lining up at 7 a.m. for the drive at the Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua. It was organized by the Miami County Food and Security Committee and the Shared Harvest Foodbank.

Another food distribution is planned for noon to 2 p.m May 16 at the same site, 8901 Looney Road. People should text “@miamifood” to 810-10 to receive updates on the next pop-up pantry.

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After the last car pulled away, surplus food was taken to The New Path pantry in Tipp City and First Place Food Pantry in Troy.

“We’re looking at not running out of food today, no matter what,” said Robert Zohfeld, Shared Harvest program manager.

Last month, approximately 40 families that were at the end of the line were re-directed to the Needy Basket of Southern Miami County as the drive ran out of food. Enough food was provided at March’s drive to feed 1,000 households, but that wasn’t enough as families in the region struggle without work during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This month we have 2,000 units because we know the need is going to be there,” said Aimee Shannon, chair for the Miami County Food and Security Committee. “It’s devastating to have people waiting in line and then not be able to get anything.”

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Pre-coronavirus, the monthly drive served about 300 families at its busiest events. When the virus began impacting the region, the Ohio National Guard was brought in to help handle the increased need.

“The national guard is amazing to work with. I’m used to working with volunteers and my volunteers have always been great, but the National Guard is just a well-oiled machine that just knocks things out really quickly,” Zohfeld said.

Distribution began an hour early Saturday, about 11 a.m., to keep the line of cars from blocking traffic in Piqua.

Despite Saturday’s long line, people were overall in good spirits, thanking traffic organizers as they slowly progressed toward the front. One young boy held a thank-you greeting card up whenever passing a guardsman.

“The best part about it has honestly been the kids and their reaction to some of our military vehicles,” said Capt. Thomas Eavers, company commander of the unit helping with Saturday’s distribution. “They get very excited for it. As far as every one of our folks working it, it’s meaningful to see the impact of what they’re doing.”

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K&J’s Ice Cream out of Sidney made a surprise drop-off of vanilla ice cream cups to the National Guard workers as the distribution wrapped up.

As cars neared the front half of the line, a worker would ask how many families the vehicle was picking up for and mark the number with window chalk.

Saturday was a no-contact distribution. Organizers did not take IDs or paperwork, no forms were signed and recipients were asked to stay in their vehicles.

Due to disabilities or other obstacles, navigating a long line of traffic isn’t possible for some needing food and supplies. To help these people, the Miami County Sheriff’s Department told organizers they would stand by to run any deliveries to anyone who couldn’t attend.

Before the drive began, 65 units were delivered to homes and assisted living facilities with people facing those challenges.

Scott Trostel retired from Hobart Brothers in Troy and now volunteers his time at Kettering Medical Center. About 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Trostel was patiently waiting mid-line with a stack of newspaper comics riding passenger seat.

Trostel is currently working on a book about stroke recovery.

“It’s difficult for me to get around because I had a stroke and to go to the grocery is almost impossible,” Trostel said. “I wasn’t supposed to survive, and I have. My wife had a stroke in January, and she didn’t survive. … This (food drive) is a God send to me.”

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