On Thursday, September 28, 2023, Marion area community organizations came together at Ohio State Marion to celebrate kindness in the local food community, Ohio State Marion students, faculty, and staff worked to distribute 430 boxes equal to 87,720 shelf-stable meals to Marion area agencies.
This was the first time Marion County was one of three locations selected for this 2023 Ohio State BeKind project.
The food was delivered to Ohio State Marion, Ohio State Lima, and the Hardin County Fairgrounds, via the official Ohio State Football equipment truck owned by Ken Blair. As part of these local communities, OSU Extension organized the distribution of the assembled meals to local non-profit organizations in each county.
Addressing food security throughout the year takes an entire community. Champions spreading kindness in their local food community were recognized at each location. In Marion County, the following champions were recognized: Aspire Ministries, Brownstone, Buckeye Community School, Church of God Victory Center, Marion County Council on Aging, Elgin Schools, Marion County Head Start, IMPACT, Logos Food Pantry, Luke 3:11 Ministries/Peanut Butter Jelly Truck, Marion City Schools, Marion Harding High School and Marion Microfarm, Marion Public Health, Marion Senior Center, Marion Technical College, Marion Towers, Ohio State Marion, Ohio State University Marion County Extension, OSU Alumni Club of Marion County, River Valley School, Seton Square, St. Mary's Hispanic Outreach, and United Way of Central Ohio.
Ohio State Marion Dean and Director Gregory S. Rose addressed the crowd of community members and Buckeyes in attendance reaffirming Ohio State's commitment to our local communities and the people of Ohio.
"An event like this is a perfect example of the university's land grant tradition in which the university is a source of engagement with the communities. Addressing food insecurity is such a critical need across the state that having Ohio State and Ohio State Marion involved is a wonderful opportunity for us to show how we can support our community," said Rose.
"I think it is a great opportunity for the campus community to come together in a community service project such as this," said Ohio State Marion Director of Development and Community Relations, Cathy Gerber. "We are delivering 430 boxes of food to 19 agencies here in the Marion area, which will fill a great need that we have in our community relative to food insecurity."
"It does take a small army here at Ohio State Marion. We have at least 20 to 30 people that will be helping today at this event. It is just a great opportunity for us to serve one another in the community," she added.
Regional Program Specialist for SNAP Ed, Andrea Easton, echoed Gerber's sentiment of the magnitude of Buckeyes that came together to make this project a reality.
"This has obviously been a big partnership and collaboration. Our main piece of this has been working with our community partners and getting them the knowledge that this is happening, getting them connected so they can get the food here. It has been great because SNAP Ed teaches nutrition education out in the community. This has been an opportunity for our audiences to come out and get this food, as well as an opportunity for us to reach out to new partners we have never worked with before.
"Between working with the extension office, alumni association, people on campus, there have been so many hands in this, and it is just great work seeing how it has come together."
According to OSU Marion County Extension Program Assistant for SNAP Ed Rachel Myers, local community organizations really stepped up their involvement in the project.
Myers said, "We reached out to our current partners that we already teach our nutrition education classes at. Some of them led us to other partners who maybe don't partner with now but thought, hey these agencies might be able to be part of this too, so we reached out to them as well."
One of the organization representatives picking up food Marcia Pitts, college and career pathways supervisor for Marion City Schools, shared that her team would be picking up and distributing 1020 meals to students and their families before the upcoming weekend.
"I think it provides an opportunity not only to provide food for the families but the fact that the meal kits are made for six and encourages families to cook together and spend time together is an important value for our students and their families. Just providing food in general for our students. We know so many of our students do not go home to well balanced meals or even have the means to have meals for the weekend. Sometimes the school is the source of their nutrition during the week," Pitts explained.
Ohio State social work graduate student Jen Hopton said it was personally meaningful knowing she and other student volunteers throughout Columbus and Marion are touching so many people's lives by volunteering their time to this project.
To contribute to healthier, hunger-free Ohio communities, meals were packed by 600 students, staff, faculty, alumni, and other volunteers on the Columbus campus on Tuesday evening, Sept. 26, including two from Ohio State Marion. This is the fifth year Ohio State has brought together the Buckeye community and local Ohio communities to address food security through this kindness project, with food packing on the Columbus campus, and food distribution to food insecure counties throughout the state. This event can prompt conversations about food security with friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors.
The program is a collaboration among the Ohio State community, including Ohio State Student Life, Athletics, the Chief Wellness Officer, the Alumni Association, the College of Food Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and local OSU Extension teams, including SNAP-Ed community nutrition. Grant funding provided by Coca-Cola and the 9-11 Day.org Foundation.