By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor
The Mid-Ohio Food Collective’s community pantry in Grove City is the busiest in central Ohio. People in need of food used to come into the pantry, located at 3960 Brookham Drive, to pick up needed goods. When the novel coronavirus hit in 2020, the food pantry could no longer allow people inside, but offered a drive-thru service. More than three years later, the drive-thru is still going strong.
According to Mike Hochron, senior vice president of communications for the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, the drive-thru community pantry routinely serves anywhere from several hundred to over a thousand families each day. It operates 40 hours and six days a week. At times, it will be so busy, vehicles are lined up around the facility waiting for food.
While those in need of food wait in their vehicles, inside volunteers pack up bags and boxes of food. They then load the goods into the vehicle. People have no say in what they get.
That is about to change.
This fall, the drive-thru service will close and the Mid-Ohio Market at Gantz Road will open.
This will be the eighth market the food collective has opened in the Columbus area, and it will be the largest.
According to Hochron, the food collective purchased the property near the intersection of Gantz and Stringtown roads, where the Aldi used to be located. This location is less than one mile from the pantry at Brookham Drive.
“This is a better fit,” said Hochron.
How will the new market in Grove City work? Hochron said it will be just like shopping at a grocery store. Visitors will sign in, get a cart, and shop for what they need.
“Only, they don’t have to pay,” he said.
Hochron said not only is this more convenient, but it also helps to remove the stigma that can come with the need for food assistance.
“I had a mother tell me that she loved shopping at our markets because she can put her child in a cart and shop, just like at other grocery stores, and her child did not know she was in a food pantry,” said Hochron. “This is a more dignified way to help families get the food they need.”
Hochron said the opening of the Mid-Ohio Market at Gantz Road has not yet been determined, but he said it will be sometime this fall.
“It was a grocery store, so we are already set up for what we need,” he said.
According to Hochron, most (or 75 percent) of Mid-Ohio customers at the on-site community pantry in Grove City travel from at least three to six miles away and more than half come from six to 10 miles away. But they may not need to travel so far from home.
For example, a customer may travel to Grove City from the westside of Columbus. There are two markets that would probably be closer. The Mid-Ohio Market at My Project USA is located at 3275 Sullivant Ave. on the Hilltop and the Mid-Ohio Market at Norton Road is located at 620 Norton Road.
Mid-Ohio Food Collective is encouraging customers to use freshtrak.com. This allows people to input their zip code to find food resources closer to home.
According to Hochron, the food collective relies on volunteers, and they have more than 1,000 of them every week. The volunteers may sort and pack food, help to register customers, and work in the markets to assist shoppers.
“We have a lot of volunteers from Grove City,” said Hochron. “They are helping to serve their neighbors. But we always need volunteers.”
For more information on volunteering or on the Mid-Ohio markets, visit mofc.org.