Its efforts to "lend a helping hand" to those in need earned the Canal Winchester Community Food Pantry a Nourishing Our Neighbors Award last week from the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

Its efforts to "lend a helping hand" to those in need earned the Canal Winchester Community Food Pantry a Nourishing Our Neighbors Award last week from the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

This is the first year that the Mid-Ohio Foodbank has begun ranking its partner pantries as a part of the Nourishing Our Neighbors program, according to Mid-Ohio Foodbank spokeswoman Yolanda Owens.

The biennial award is a tool "to assess our partner agencies' operations and resources," she said.

The Canal Winchester Food Pantry is one of 10 in central Ohio to achieve platinum status, the highest ranking. The others are: Broad Street Presbyterian Food Pantry; Community Development for All People-Fresh Market; H.E.L.P. House Community Outreach; Healthy Worthington Resource Center & Food Pantry; LifeCare Alliance-Columbus Cancer Clinic; Neighborhood Services Inc.; Our Lady of Guadalupe; Urban Mission Ministries-God's Pantry and the YWCA Family Center.

Owens said participation in the awards is voluntary and does not affect an agency's ability to obtain food or services.

Canal Winchester Human Services Administrator Penny Miller said the award was a welcome surprise.

"The Canal Winchester Community Food Pantry appreciates being recognized by the Mid-Ohio Foodbank as one of their 2014 Platinum Food Pantries," Miller said. "We work very hard to serve those in need living within our service boundaries by not only providing food assistance but also demonstrating we care about their families and their circumstance on a personal level."

Mid-Ohio Foodbank Executive Director Matt Habash presented the Nourishing Our Neighbors awards at ceremony May 7 at the organization's Grove City headquarters. He said he is thankful for the many programming options that the Canal Winchester food pantry has put together to decrease "food insecurity" in the area.

"We are especially grateful for the Canal Winchester food pantry because they extend a helping hand to alleviate food insecurity through improved access with their Senior Transportation Program, Community Outreach Program and Feeding Our Future program in area schools," Habash said.

"Programs like these help connect the dots for many of our neighbors struggling to make ends meet, not only in our urban, but our suburban neighborhoods," he said.

"Thanks to amazing partner agencies like the Canal Winchester food pantry program, we have hope of ending hunger, one nourishing meal at a time."

Since acquiring the pantry in 2012, Miller said Canal Winchester Human Services has expanded its outreach through the Choice Pantry Program to include Market Day, which is specific to the needs of low-income senior citizens.

At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, the pantry implemented its "Feeding Our Future" program, which is a hunger initiative providing income-eligible students with free breakfast and lunches.

"Unfortunately, the issue of hunger continues to grow, so we feel a great responsibility to do everything we can to meet this challenge head-on," Miller said. "As such, I want people to know we have a continuous need for donations."

She said the pantry is currently working with the city to setup a weekly summer food drop at the city swimming pool.

The next big donation drive event will be Pack the Pantry, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 21, in partnership with the Madison Township Fire Department and the Groveport Food Pantry.

"We ask the community to stop by either firehouse to drop off donations for their respective pantry," Miller said.

For more information about the Canal Winchester Community Food Pantry and its services or to make a donation, call 614-834-4700.