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Cleveland Organizations See High Turnout At Food Pickup Sites

Volunteers load food and supplies into a car at the May Dugan Center's drive-thru pantry in Ohio City on Wednesday, March 25. [Amy Vaughters / May Dugan Center]
Volunteers load food and supplies into a car at the May Dugan Center's drive-thru pantry in Ohio City on Wednesday, March 25.

Volunteers at the May Dugan Center in Ohio City handed out food, clothing and fresh produce to 1,747 people at the outreach organization's drive-thru pantry Wednesday. According to the center's Director of Development Brenda Saridakis, that's about four times the number of people who usually turn out for their monthly pantries.

 “Last week alone, we had over a hundred people calling asking how they can get food," she said. "We’ll take phone calls, and we’ll do whatever that we can to help every individual.”

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank also served thousands when it hosted a drive-thru food pantry Tuesday.

Volunteers, including members of the Ohio National Guard, served boxes of food to 4,000 people from 1,500 households. Two-thirds of those households had not been to the food bank previously, and one-third had not been to any of its partner organizations throughout Northeast Ohio, said food bank CEO Kristin Warzocha.

“We had a lot of folks who lost their jobs for the first time who were really scared about running out of food,” she said.

The line of cars waiting to be served stretched for miles, she said, and it took more than three hours to get to everyone.

The food bank plans to organize more drive-thru pantries but may not hold them at its headquarters on South Waterloo Road in Cleveland.

“We’re considering whether this is the right location for that, or if we need to take it elsewhere where we’ve got a little bit more space,” Warzocha said.

She said those who are in need of food can call the food bank at 216-738-2067 to be connected to local resources and pantries.

The May Dugan Center is still taking appointments to pick up food in the coming days. Those who are interested can call 216-631-5800 ext. 300.

The center will resume its regular produce-only distribution on the second Wednesday of every month and a full food pantry distribution on the fourth Wednesday of the month.

Meals on Wheels of Northeast Ohio will continue to deliver food to seniors in the program, but shelf-stable goods will temporarily be served instead of hot or frozen meals.

“Shelf-stable meals reduce contact between volunteers and clients, reduce the potential of food contamination and ensures that they have meals should our kitchens be mandated to shut down or closed due to a lack of staffing from the illness,” the agency stated in a press release.

The last day for hot and frozen deliveries will be March 27. After that, volunteers will deliver two weeks-worth of shelf-stable meals on a biweekly basis.

Volunteers will be trained for no-contact drop-off and wellness checks will be conducted over the phone.

Hot and frozen meal delivery is scheduled to resume May 18 pending the status of COVID-19 at that time.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.