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Foodbanks, churches offer relief for families in rural counties

Bridging the Great Health Divide
Bridging the Great Health Divide((Source: WOIO))
Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 7:26 AM EDT
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ASHTABULA CO., Ohio (WOIO) - What happens when you live in a rural county where grocery stores are few and far in between? It’s a struggle for people to get transportation to the store resulting in them relying on the resources they have in their neighborhood.

19 News investigates found food banks and churches are sometimes their only options of getting food.

19 News continues in-depth coverage of hunger in our series “Bridging the Great Health Divide”.

Ashtabula County has award-winning wineries, places to boat and fish, but underneath all that beautiful scenery is a dark problem: people are going hungry.

19 News investigates found it comes down to money and transportation.

”We took them out of the house in diapers and flip flops,” said Angel Baker, who lives in Ashtabula County.

The Bakers are grandparents raising their grandchildren. Their both on a fixed income, and as you can imagine raising four kids is expensive. Their story is the reality many others face. So who do they turn to, to make sure their grandchildren are fed and clothed? Foodbanks and churches.

“Without the help of the food pantries, we wouldn’t have food to feed our children. There are a lot of churches that come to help and a lot of people that are willing to help. They’ve been to our home,” said Angel Baker.

Barbara Klingensmith runs the epicenter of food banks in the county located in Orwell, a township south of Ashtabula. Her food bank collects food from the Cleveland Food Bank and then distributes it to the other food banks in the county.

”A lot of what we’re seeing to, we’re seeing more and more grandparents raising grandchildren. In 2021, 34 percent of the individuals that are accessing food pantries are now our senior citizens over the age of 60,” said Klingensmith, the Executive Director of the Country Neighbor Program.

Accounting for all food subsidies, food bank support, and help from friends and family, people living in Ashtabula County miss a total of roughly 4.6 million meals per year, because they can’t afford them according to a report from Gray’s InvestigateTV.

”Transportation has always been a challenge in Ashtabula County,” said Klingensmith.

The county is pretty spread out, so a lot of people don’t have a grocery store like Giant Eagle in walking distance from their home. This is why they may end up shopping at a gas station, and if they do it’s certainly not saving them any money.

”We’re lucky that we have a vehicle that we can get where we need to go,” said Baker.

However, some people aren’t. That’s why the 19 News Investigative Team went into a gas station and Giant Eagle to compare prices. They found a box of cereal at a gas station is $4.49 and at Giant Eagle, it’s $3.79. Some may say ‘oh that’s just a dollar difference’, but every penny counts especially when you’re on a tight budget.

Ashtabula County Community Action Agency is building a program to combat hunger and transportation issues. It’s called The Pathways Community HUB. The program leader said it would serve Ashtabula, Lake, and Geauga Counties. The HUB will target those on Medicaid. This program will give people access to resources helping them get food, transportation, and the emotional and mental support they need. If someone is not on Medicaid, the program will work with you to get on Medicaid if you qualify.

The program is expected to launch in January 2022, giving people in this community much-needed relief.

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