LOGAN, Ohio – For nearly a month, some 500 members of the Ohio National Guard have been deployed to food banks across the state, seeing the impact of food insecurity up close. For Pfc. Jayden Rutter, it hits much closer to home – in more ways than one.
Rutter, a Soldier with Company F, 237th Support Battalion, grew up in neighboring Vinton County, which had the second-highest child poverty rate in the state, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
“We, down here, don’t have much,” Rutter said. “I’ve seen people struggle my whole life, and now that I’m able to actually get behind the scenes and help put things together, it really means a lot.
“For a long time, we didn’t even have a grocery store. So everything was very challenging,” he said.
The region is comprised of multiple smaller communities and towns. Because of this, Rutter says everyone seems to know everyone. He has seen a lot of familiar faces pass through the distribution lines during his time with the food bank.
“It feels really nice seeing people I recognize, knowing that they’re well enough to come out and get the food, and knowing that I can help them,” Rutter said. “There’s been many times where they’ve helped me personally, so I feel like it’s just great to give back.”
In addition to the help the Ohio National Guard is providing to the people in Southeast Ohio, Nelsonville-York City Schools staff members are delivering meals to students using buses and, in some instances, their personal vehicles when the area is not easily accessible.
Deven Berry, a food laborer at Southeast Ohio Foodbank, has been proudly serving his community for nearly five years. He and his family have always valued hard work and helping neighbors in need. Berry started working at the food bank when he was just 16.
“When I was little, we weren’t the richest family. … I kind of know what it’s like to go to a food bank and get food,” Berry said.
Berry says many of his family members were in the military and that he looks up to the Ohio National Guard Soldiers who are helping the Southeast Ohio Foodbank staff by picking, packing and delivering meals to the elderly and surrounding humanitarian organizations.
“I like having you guys here,” Berry said. “It means a lot.”
In the past month, the Ohio National Guard has distributed more than 7 million pounds of food to Ohioans. COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty to not just Southeast Ohio, but in all 88 counties, and the Ohio National Guard is working tirelessly alongside their new food bank family members to make sure there is food on the table for those who seek help.
“That’s how we are in Southeast Ohio,” Berry said. “We take care of each other.”