Press Releases

Governor DeWine deploys National Guard to help feed local families

Mar 19, 2020

On Wednesday, Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Adjutant General MG John C. Harris Jr., at the request of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and in collaboration with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks and its 12-member Feeding America food banks, announced the deployment of Ohio National Guard members to help feed seniors, families and displaced workers.

On March 23, the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank will welcome 20-30 National Guard members who will supplement the staff and volunteer workforce who are vital in maintaining the Foodbank’s current operations.

“We plan to utilize members of the National Guard to provide a labor force to assist in several areas of our operation. It’s important to remind everyone that they will not be operating in a law enforcement capacity,” said Dan Flowers, president and CEO of the Foodbank. “Our specific request was for members who are certified in heavy equipment to help our warehouse staff manage the increase in demand from our hunger-relief network.”

The Foodbank had one of its largest single-day distributions in its 37-year history on Wednesday, doubling the amount of food distributed from its warehouse. The pantries, hot meal sites and backpack programs within its eight-county service area are preparing for an increase in demand as more businesses close and families are out of work. If the demand for food continues at this pace, it will not have enough inventory to meet the need.

“We’re grateful for the support Governor DeWine has shown Ohio food banks. As volunteer groups continue to cancel and some staff members work from home to take care of their families, we welcome the National Guard members as part of our Foodbank family and thank them for their commitment and diligence in the weeks ahead,” said Flowers.

In addition to replenishing the Foodbank’s own workforce, help from the National Guard may also be sent to hunger-relief partners within the Foodbank’s network to help assist with distributing food.

Statewide, approximately 300 National Guard members will be deployed at the 12 food bank warehouses across the state, which provide food to Ohioans in all 88 counties. The National Guard members will assist Ohio’s food banks in procuring, sorting and packing food into bags and boxes; distributing that food through “no-touch” food distributions and deliveries; and supporting other logistical needs to protect public health and safety while maintaining food bank operations.

"We have a responsibility to respond when our governor and fellow Ohioans need our assistance," said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio adjutant general. "We have a long history of supporting the state and nation during times of emergency. Our guard members are coming from counties across the state to serve their own communities, ensuring their neighbors continue to receive food and pantry items."

Ohio’s food banks report that they have implemented several key changes to respond to need while protecting staff, volunteers and clients by minimizing person-to-person contact. Food banks, along with some of their 3,600-member food pantries, hot meal sites and shelters, have transitioned to “no-touch” food distribution using drive-through and delivery models, pre-packaged bags and boxes of food, and “to-go” meals.

"The action I've taken to activate the Ohio National Guard will provide support to food pantries that are low on staff and need help getting food to some of our most vulnerable citizens," said Gov. Mike DeWine. "By looking out for our neighbors and following proper health safety guidelines, we will make it through this together."

To help support the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank during the COVID-19 crisis, please make a donation by visiting akroncantonfoodbank.org.

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