M.A.S.H. Pantry and Resource Center has been providing free food and other items for veterans and their families three days a week since February at 222 E. William St. in Delaware, and pantry officials want more veterans to know they should stop by for a visit.

The site is one of four central Ohio free pantries operated by M.A.S.H., which is an acronym for Military and Service Heroes.

M.A.S.H. president Amber Hudson said the pantries provide free food and clothing to any veteran or active duty personnel, with military or veteran identification, and their families.

She said M.A.S.H. food, clothing and other items are available for any veteran regardless of economic status, and confidentiality is respected.

The pantry also is designed to be a meeting spot where veterans and military personnel can socialize, she said, and it's not limited to Delaware veterans.

"We don't want to turn anyone away," she said.

Veterans often experience delays when dealing with government-related social services, she said, and M.A.S.H. can provide help much quicker. It also can refer veterans to other agencies and resources.

M.A.S.H. was launched in 2015. Its other pantries are in the Victorious Living Christian Center, 2375 Columbus St., Grove City; at the Defense Supply Center Columbus, 3990 E. Broad St., in Whitehall; and at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, 7370 Minuteman Way, Columbus.

It also runs free produce markets for veterans at the VFW Tri-Community Post 4719, 75 W. Johnstown Road, Gahanna; Whitehall American Legion Post 490, 1117 S. Hamilton Road, Columbus; and Commercial Point Men's Club, 26 W. Scioto St., Commercial Point.

Tonya Freeman of Delaware, the local pantry manager, said breakfast is served from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays, and all veterans are encouraged to attend.

The pantry also is open from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.

Ric Ray, a member of the Delaware County Veterans Services Commission, is one of about 25 volunteers at the Delaware pantry.

"We need to tell the veterans community, 'We're here. Please come in,' " he said.

Those who know fellow veterans in need are encouraged to tell them about the pantry and even bring them by, Ray said.

Gennie Funk, another volunteer, said veterans are a proud group and they need to know the items M.A.S.H. provides are not a handout.

She said veterans earned with their service every benefit they receive.

"You deserve it," she said.

Hudson said the pantry also is starting peer support groups -- one for men, one for women -- on the fourth Monday of each month.

Freeman said the pantry has been receiving local donations of canned goods.

Stores, churches and schools also are encouraged to set aside a box to collect canned goods for the pantry, she said.

M.A.S.H. receives donations of produce from the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and frequent donations of bread from Panera Bread, Freeman said, plus food donated by other sources.

Volunteers help provide other items and clothing for veterans and families and knitted the hats sitting on the pantry's well-stocked shelves, Ray said.

The pantry has a large walk-in cooler and a full kitchen.

Freeman said each veteran and their family is allotted an amount of food each month based on the number of people in the family, and veterans typically pick up the month's allotment in one visit.

M.A.S.H. can be contacted at 614-522-1555 or by email at info@mashpantry.org. Its website is www.mashpantry.org.

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