TOLEDO, Ohio — For over 100 years, the Lutheran Social Services of Northwestern Ohio has been a resourceful aid for Toledo residents in more ways than one.
In 2018, the LSS emergency food pantry located at 2149 Collingwood Boulevard, gave 350,000 meals to those in need.
Jennifer Ziolkowski with LSS said in the last quarter of 2019, the pantry has seen record-breaking numbers. Over 900 individuals were served every month since September. In just October, there was a 19% increase over 2018 with a total of 998 individuals who were served.
"People come and we serve them. My volunteers are incredible. Sometimes the volunteers don't get lunch because they're serving clients. It's been just phenomenal," explained Joyce Willier, the food pantry coordinator. "I'm thankful we have the resources to purchase the food."
Willier has been with LSS for over 50 years. She, along with Ziolkowski, believe perhaps the spike they've seen is due to social media word-of-mouth and the varied food choices that the pantry offers clients.
"We have, through our USDA connection this month, oranges, grapes, cheese eggs. And then we always get a frozen meat," Ziolkowski said.
When LSS food pantry was developed, the goal wasn't just to feed clients, but also to give them a chance to shop and choose what type of food they want instead of receiving a prepackaged bag of food.
Carla, a client of LSS, said she was able to get a good amount of healthy food that she and her two young children will like.
"We got a pork loin. We got some fruit, which is good because my kids love love fruit. We got vegetables. We are big fans of vegetables in my household," she said.
"They have some other fancy cereal back there - I'm not giving my kids sweet stuff like that, they're already bouncing off the walls," she added jokingly.
Carla was connected with the emergency food pantry through United Way 211 and encourages those who need help, to get help.
"Don't be ashamed to need help. Everyone needs someone sometimes. They're (LSS) helping because they want to. You're not required to help anyone but it feels good to help someone and if you can you should. As much as you can, because you never know when you may need that help yourself," she said. "It's always good to remain in the cycle of blessings."
And you can easily remain in that cycle, whether it's on the giving or receiving end with LSS.
With the recent increase in people helped comes the increase for help itself at LSS to continue the pantry's mission through donations and volunteers.
"Volunteers here can do a number of things. They can pick up food at the food bank. They can help stock, they can interview clients and help the clients go through our choice pantry," said Willier.
Anyone interested in donating can always give cereal, canned meats, chicken noodle soup and cream of mushroom soup.
For anyone who needs assistance with providing food for their family will just need to bring the following items when applying for help:
- Photo ID
- Proof of address (utility bill in your name)
- Social Security or Medicaid number
The food pantry is usually available during the last two full weeks of the month between 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1 p.m.-2 p.m. only. This month however, the pantry will be open Dec. 9-13 and 16-20.
LSS also offers other types of assistance such as mental health services, a personal needs pantry, substance use disorder services and a financial opportunity center.
You can find more information on all the different services offered here.
''Help is available. We want to be able to serve people, we want them to have a better life. We want them to grow from where they are to be more productive and supportive of their own family," said Willier.