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Ohio State event benefits food insecure communities in Ohio

Popular food-packing service project returns for 5th year

When Buckeyes give, extraordinary things happen.

Hundreds of Ohio State University students, staff and alumni recently packed nearly 190,000 meals, which were then delivered to nonprofit organizations in the Youngstown area, one of the most food insecure regions of the nation.

The nearly 500 volunteers spent two hours packing the meals in a high-energy event at French Field House on the Ohio State campus. The boxes included rice, red lentils, canned produce and beans.

“The students at Ohio State, by being involved in this, get a really rewarding experience,” said Audrey Trell, a fourth-year student in communication and public policy who has volunteered for this program each of the last four years.

This marked the fifth year for the project that delivers food to areas in need. In that time more than 1 million meals have been packed and delivered to food insecure areas around Ohio.

“Ohio State is a land-grant institution that was founded on helping people throughout the state,” said Student Life’s Tracy Stuck. “This meal giveaway is helping families in need and teaching our students and staff that land-grant mission of serving our state.”

The program is part of the university’s #BeKind initiative, promoting the idea that the simple act of being kind leads to powerful experiences and profound human connections. The program is a collaboration among Ohio State Student Life, Athletics, OSU Extension, the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), the Kids Around the World organization and Coca-Cola.

Following the packing event, OSU Extension and the football team’s equipment trailer delivered the meals to nearly 100 organizations in Mahoning, Columbiana, Portage and Stark counties.

“These community agencies serve food insecure audiences at 200% of the federal poverty level and below, so we know that partnering with them will get the food to those with the most need,” said Eric Barrett, an assistant professor and extension educator in Mahoning County. Each nonprofit received at least one box containing enough food to feed 216 people.

“We had looked at the numbers and saw the Mahoning Valley, especially in the Youngstown area, was second-highest in food insecurity in the country,” said Stuck. The Food Research and Action Center identifies the Mahoning Valley as having the second-worst food hardship rate in the nation based on 2016-2017 Gallup data.

Stuck called the project an opportunity to teach the community about food insecurity, “a lesson we hope we’re teaching for a lifetime. No matter where our students go in the world, they can contribute to serve that mission of getting people fed around the world.”

Volunteers involved with both the packing and the distribution of the meals said they were pleased to be able to pay it forward to neighbors in need.

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