Food pantry truck visits SS. Peter & Paul
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
July 18, 2012: A team of social service agencies known as the CARE Team spent an afternoon at SS. Peter & Paul Church distributing food to more than 100 families and linking them to local resources to help them get through difficult economic times.
Deb Ortiz-Flores, director of Lucas County Job and Family Services (JFS), explained that a mobile food pantry is a good way to draw families in poverty, who can then choose the groceries they need to survive. But it also gives a chance for social service workers to directly connect with those families in crisis to offer public assistance and other help.
“The mobile food pantry is a great way to get people to the CARE team,” she said. “But it’s the wraparound services and referrals with the community providers that is really the hook to connect the family to many needed services. It’s not just ‘Here’s a bag of food. Good luck.’”
Such “wraparound” services meet other needs, such as free blood pressure screenings, flu shots and other preventative health services, as well as books for kids and resources for family pets—items that may be forgotten or unaffordable in troubled economic times.
“Something’s going on that the family is feeling ‘food insecure,’” said Ms. Ortiz-Flores. “They’re in crisis related to other things—and that’s why United Way 211 is there, and we’re there, for applications to food stamps, Medicaid, or other government assistance or community partner assistance.”
More than 2,000 families in Lucas County have benefited from the CARE Team and its mobile food bank since its inception three years ago. The service is a partnership of LCJFS with various sponsors including: United Way, Food for Thought, Read for Literacy, Area Office on Aging, the Neighborhood Health Association, Unison, Adelante Inc., ABLE, YWCA, LMHA, and other organizations.
“It gives them some self-respect, some dignity to be able to go in and make some selections on their own,” said Ms. Ortiz-Flores.
The effort served more than 100 families, a realistic reflection of the poverty facing families in the Old South End.
”We know the 43609 zip code has a large number of people in poverty,” explained the county JFS director. “We know that the 43605 and 43609 are our top zip codes for people on public assistance. We know there is lots of unemployment and other social issues going on in those communities.”
“As more and more families are struggling to put food on the table, CARE Team delivers resources directly to neighborhoods in need,” echoed Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak. “We hope to make things just a little easier during these difficult economic times.”
The effort also tries to be culturally competent and provide neighborhood-specific services. During Wednesday’s stop, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE), Adelante, Inc. and Unison Behavioral joined the effort. Melissa Alvarado represented the United Way and Fabiola Martínez of the Neighborhood Health Association was in attendance in case bilingual services were needed. So was Betty Hernández Rios of LCJFS.
Many of the agencies involved will follow up with Latino families to ensure they are properly enrolled in social services and continue to receive long-term assistance.