COLUMBUS, Ohio – About 350 members of the Ohio National Guard are helping process and distribute food at 14 food bank warehouses across the state.
While there are Ohio National Guard units transitioning out of the food bank mission to return to civilian and military obligations, new units are being brought in to continue to assist at all 14 locations.
The Ohio National Guard's response to fight the effects of COVID-19 began when Gov. Mike DeWine signed a state active duty proclamation March 18 to activate personnel from the Guard and Ohio Military Reserve to assist with humanitarian efforts. Federal funding for the National Guard response nationwide for COVID-19 missions has been extended into December.
Since mid-March, the Ohio National Guard has packed more than 43 million pounds of food and distributed more than 50 million pounds of food and provided more than 700,000 meals to people.
"For the past six months, an extraordinary group of men and women have sacrificed each day to serve their neighbors and friends struggling to access and afford food amid the pandemic," said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director, Ohio Association of Foodbanks. "We are so deeply thankful that the Ohio National Guard will extend its support of this mission for the next three months as we plan together for what's to come in 2021."
Hamler-Fugitt said Ohioans can honor the sacrifices and service of the Ohio National Guard by contacting their local food bank to volunteer.
Ohio Army National Guard Col. David Rhoads leads the joint task force headquarters that provides management and oversight to all Ohio National Guard and State Defense Force (which includes the Ohio Military Reserve) support requested through the governor's office.
"We have a team of professionals from communities throughout the state who come with a diverse set of skills to include medical and logistics," Rhoads said. "It is our privilege to be able to continue to serve the citizens of Ohio, and we are prepared to answer the call at a moment's notice should more assistance be needed."
Members of the Ohio National Guard are also helping test people for the coronavirus and transporting test samples to laboratories; assisting with personal protective equipment warehousing and logistics; and providing medical assistance at nursing facilities. Previous missions have included collaborating with regional partners to identify and develop alternate care sites to expand medical capacity and providing medical and operational support at state and federal prisons.