COLUMBUS (WCMH) — As a line of homeless and hungry people starts to form in a downtown Columbus parking lot, members of the Ohio National Guard assemble bags of food, which include a hot meal prepared by the Mid-Ohio Food Collective.
They’ve been doing this for eight weeks now.
Air Force Technical Sgt. Vicente Uriostegui says it’s just a matter of helping out however they can.
“I think its a great opportunity to help out the community, especially the community here in downtown and people who are less fortunate,” Uriostegui said.
63-year-old Bruce Hamilton says health issues led to him losing his job and eventually all of his money. He’s living at the YMCA and says the daily, hot meals are a bright spot in his day.
“It’s a god send, it really is,” Hamilton said.
On Friday, The James Cancer Center’s Mobile Education Kitchen joined the food distribution effort. The mobile kitchen staff typically visit outdoor festivals and fairs for educational cooking demonstrations. But with most events cancelled, program director Jim Warner said shifting gears makes sense.
“The fact that we’re changing our platform from education to more filling a need of feeding people who are hungry is just an extension of what we already do in the community,” Warner said. “You see the individuals coming through here and very few of them are insured or have any health care. So, we’re kind of that first step to it by trying to keep them healthy through good food.”
The Mid-Ohio Food Collective says its kitchen is now preparing about 10,000 hot meals per week.
Aaron Mahan, Housing Coordinator at the Columbus YMCA, says a lot of soup kitchens have closed due to the pandemic leaving the homeless with fewer opportunities for a hot meal.
“They might get a snack every now and then or a snack bag that has some sweets and nuts and juices and stuff in it but to get a hot meal, there’s only a few places that we know of right now,” Mahan said.