Community Action responding to local need in light of COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Southeast Ohio Foodbank is announcing a series of additional updates to their organization’s operations. The Southeast Ohio Foodbank is a program of Hocking Athens Perry Community Action (HAPCAP) and serves Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Vinton, and Washington counties.

To minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, the Foodbank has developed a limited-contact distribution model.  With the help of the Ohio National Guard and Ohio Military Reserve, the Foodbank is now providing pre-packed food boxes for their network of over 60 pantries in Southeast Ohio. Since the troops’ arrival on March 23, the Foodbank has packed and distributed nearly 13,000 boxes to its 10-county service area.

“We are a rural food bank that covers over 4,000 square miles. By continuing to strengthen our pantry network, we can localize our services and resources to ensure that every Southeast Ohioan who needs food can receive it,” says Andrew Mayle, HAPCAP’s Food & Nutrition Director.

Traditionally, the Southeast Ohio Foodbank distributes food to their network of pantries, and the food is then made available to members of the community. With the pre-packed box model, boxes are made available to pantries based on the number of people they serve. The boxes are packed with items including, but not limited to: shelf-stable proteins, grains, and canned fruits, and canned vegetables.

The Foodbank has also held a number of mobile food pantries since the start of Ohio’s stay-at-home order. Thanks to a sponsorship from the TC Energy Foundation and U.S. Pipeline, Inc., over 1,000 pre-packed food boxes were distributed to families in Gallia, Jackson, and Lawrence Counties. The Ohio National Guard and Ohio Military Reserve, as well as dozens of community volunteers, provided the logistics and assistance needed for these mobile distributions.

We need lasting solutions to this pernicious problem—specifically, we need to fix our safety net for good.

Since the start of COVID-19’s impact on Ohioans in early March, the Foodbank has seen a 290% increase in calls from residents seeking assistance. According to the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, hunger is the most flexible part of a family’s budget, which is why food insecurity is so pervasive in low-income communities. Stagnant wages have been trying to keep up with cost of living increases, so money for groceries tends to shrink.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified and intensified the problem of food insecurity and hunger in America,” says Kelly Hatas, HAPCAP’s Executive Director. “We need lasting solutions to this pernicious problem—specifically, we need to fix our safety net for good. We need an immediate, significant, and permanent increase to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our country’s first line of defense against hunger. We are going to continue to work tirelessly with our partners to meet the demand we are facing—providing food to all who need it. Because we believe that access to food is a basic human right. But the Feeding America network is just one component of our nation’s fight against hunger.”

Ohio’s Foodbanks have a strong purchasing power. Every $1 in donations provides $15 of food. However, the power of SNAP, also known as food stamps, makes the program the first line of defense against hunger. For every 1 meal provided by the Feeding America Network, SNAP provides 12.

Members of the public can find a list of the Foodbank’s network agencies by visiting HAPCAP’s website at Information on giving and volunteering is also available. For more information on the status of agency programs, please contact Claire Gysegem, HAPCAP’s Public Relations Manager, at (740) 767-4500 or by emailing