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Struggling pantry boosted by hospital's donation

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A recent donation of doughnuts and snack cakes waits Oct. 3 at the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center. The recent donation of kitchen equipment from Nationwide Children's Hospital will help the center distribute food -- especially fresh produce -- more effectively.
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By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center has already used the $20,000 budgeted for food purchases this year.

It happens from time to time, Executive Director Bill Owens said last week.

But these are especially tough times, and while Owens said he remains optimistic the faith community and local residents will help the settlement house through this difficult period, CRC Basic Needs Supervisor Beth Stewart-Magee said when the food pantry ran out of potatoes recently, she broke down and cried for the first time in her long career there.

"I certainly worry about how we're going to get by," Owens said, "but on the other hand, I've got great faith that we're going to find a way to get by."

The Community Resources Center has spent 41 percent more so far this year than during the same period in 2011, Stewart-Magee said.

Prices are up, she added, and so are the numbers of people requesting assistance.

Some help may be on the way with funding derived from the 30th annual CRC Pumpkin Path, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 20. The traditional event is held at the intersection of West Lakeview Avenue and North High Street, near the center's headquarters, and offers people pumpkins in exchange for donations of three cans of food to the pantry, along with face painting, pumpkin carving, a cider press, petting zoo, grill and bake sale, karaoke, games and prizes.

The Kiwanis Club of Northern Columbus is sponsoring this year's event, which grew from an occasion three decades ago when pumpkins suddenly sprouted in a compost pile near what is now state Route 315.

The resource center's current boundaries are the Worthington city limits to the north, Interstate 71 to the east, Hudson Street to the south, and to the west, well, that's anybody's guess.

Because Upper Arlington doesn't have any food pantries, Owens said 92 families from that area have turned to the center for assistance. That represents the fifth-largest segment of food recipients, he said.

Although the center faces financial difficulties, the agency's ability to distribute the food it gets, particularly produce from the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, was greatly enhanced recently by the donation of equipment -- some of it in storage, some of it pressed into immediate use -- as the result of renovations to the kitchens at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"The donated equipment included refrigerators, cafe tables, office chairs, sinks, rolling racks, small kitchen wares and more," according to an announcement last month from Mid-Ohio Foodbank Communication Director Colin Baumgartner, a Clintonville resident.

"We're in a better position now to have the food that we get here actually get into somebody's stomach," Owens said last week.

This is especially true of produce that's been delivered every Tuesday for the past year by foodbank personnel. Since October 2011, Owens said 68,882 pounds of produce have been distributed to 2,336 different households under the program.

The equipment the center received from the hospital includes a refrigeration unit with a glass front, which allows pantry users to select food they and their families prefer, rather than what might be allotted to them, Owens said.

"We want this experience to be like a store ... in that people will be able to choose the food they buy for their families -- only without the cash register."

A commercial griddle, along with a commercial oven obtained through a grant, are in storage while a local architect tries to configure the existing small space at the CRC headquarters on West Lakeview Avenue to accommodate them, Owens said. He added it seems likely the agency will remain in its cramped location for at least another year.

"We want to be able to serve people the best that we can," Owens said. "We're going to do our best in this building until we can find another building."

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