COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — September is Hunger Action Month and in Ohio, one in every five people are food insecure — people that could be your friends, your neighbors, or your co-workers.

Thankfully, there are places like the Mid-Ohio Food Collective to help people in need, people like Jariah Merritt.

Merritt is just 19 years old, but she’s had to grow up quickly, to take care of her family.

“My Mom is on disability and she’s not able to work so I rely on myself to go out and make some kind of money,” said Merritt. “And then with COVID and losing a job, it affected us because we weren’t able to buy what we needed for the house. And I have nieces and nephews and I have to buy food for them to eat as well.”

First, it was the pandemic, and lately, it’s been inflation putting the squeeze on people like Merritt, just trying to make ends meet.

“Listen, I think we all can agree that the gas prices are no joke,” said Merritt. “It made it a lot harder just to buy food and just basic necessities.

“I had to choose to see if I was going to pay for gas to get to work or buy food. Have to pay bills. Have to just pay to provide for my family, and with me being only 19, it’s very hard. You don’t really find any good-paying jobs that will hire you.”

With that in mind, Merritt and her family turned to the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, to relieve some of the financial pressure. And now, every week, they have fresh meats, produce, and more given to them at no charge. For Merritt, it’s been life-changing. Not only is her family now being fed comfortably, but she’s been inspired to help others like her.

“Just to see how happy people were after the fact they got food,” said Merritt. “It brightened my heart and it made me actually want to volunteer and why I do volunteer in the community. Giving back to people.

“’Cause, I like seeing the smiles on people’s faces and to hear how appreciative and grateful people are that you’re helping them and doing something good.”

And volunteers are what make places like the Mid-Ohio Food Collective go.