Twice a month, rolling shelves help turn the youth area at Grace Point Community Church into a food pantry.

Open Table, the church's bi-monthly pantry, opens on the second Tuesday and fourth Thursday of every month at 2393 Peachblow Road in Lewis Center.

The food pantry is open from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Open Table was founded about 10 years ago -- but today, Delaware County remains among the state's most underserved for those in need of food assistance, said Lisa Jackson, Open Table's volunteer director.

"At that time, Delaware County needed more food pantries. There were not enough for the number of people, and that's still the case today," Jackson said. "The food pantries in the county all schedule at different times, so we can make sure we have one open almost every day to serve Delaware County."

The pantry offers milk, eggs, bread and fresh produce. The church also serves a hot meal at the start of every pantry night.

"Our goal is to give them enough groceries to get through three to five days for all of their meals for however many people are in their family," Jackson said. "We serve about 100 families a month. They come in and they grocery-shop, just like a regular grocery store."

Nearly 15 percent of Ohioans -- more than 1.7 million -- are food-insecure, according to Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks.

"We have more than 16,000 residents in our community who struggle with food insecurity, many of which rely on meal programs and food pantries," said Brandon Feller, president of United Way of Delaware County. "Sometimes you can tell what a person's need is by looking at them. Hunger is not something that you can see, but you see the effects of it."

The Delaware Hunger Alliance is an initiative managed by the United Way that aims to coordinate services such as food pantries, meal deliveries and summer lunch programs countywide.

It partners with Mid-Ohio Foodbank and last fiscal year helped distribute nearly 2 million pounds of food in Delaware County, Feller said.

"That represented 661,008 meals that were provided," he said.

A lack of affordable housing in the county often forces families to decide between paying rent or putting food on the table, he said.

"What we have in Delaware County is working poor. Hunger is not a food problem, it's an economic problem. It's about other resources being diverted to other needs," Feller said. "We're also seeing more grandparents that have primary guardianship of their grandchildren because of the opioid epidemic. They didn't need help before, but now (they do). On average, somebody that's in this situation is missing at least one meal a day. They're not dying of starvation but are skipping meals and nutrition."

Most of the pantries operating in Delaware County are open to households earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

"What we find is that we're seeing somebody that is going through difficulty -- they just need that little bit of help. We do see a lot of elderly and people on Social Security -- those are our most regular clients," Jackson said. "A lot of the people that come into our food pantries are your neighbors."

For more information on hunger resources, or to find ways to help, visit delawarecountyhunger.org or find the Delaware County Hunger Alliance on Facebook.

For more information on Open Table, go to gracepoint.cc/opentable or the Open Table Food Pantry Facebook page.

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