BY SHERI TRUSTY
Last summer, a young boy showed up in the parking lot of the Ottawa County Family Advocacy Center. The center’s volunteer coordinator, Ashley Walterbusch, gave him a half gallon of milk. He couldn’t drink it fast enough.
“He said, ‘It’s been so long since I’ve had milk,’” Walterbusch said. “He started gulping it.”
That brief encounter highlighted a drastic need: There are hungry kids all across Ottawa County. The Family Advocacy Center (FAC) is helping meet that need with the Summer Lunch Grab Bags program. Each week through Thursday, Aug. 17, families can pick up free bags of food for their children at distribution sites around the county.
On the first week, about 540 bags were distributed. Each bag contains enough food for 10 meals, and the center distributed 5,400 meals to children in just one week.
“We’re hoping to reach 100,000 meals this summer,” said FAC Director Connie Roe.
There are no income requirements to participate in the program. Meals are available to any child in Ottawa County from birth through 17 and older students still in high school. The program is funded by a USDA grant through the Ohio Department of Education.
Families must make reservations 24 hours prior to pick up. Thanks to the support of Oak Harbor High School, the center added an evening pickup time. Pickup sites and times and reservation forms can be found below.
Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
- Marblehead Police Department – https://forms.gle/MXbP4yg9RTtYmnx17
- Port Clinton Police Department – https://forms.gle/uYm4NrBmYegv7a2k6
- Family Advocacy Center – https://forms.gle/YXkyBbcvhNzbeED89
Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
- Oak Harbor High School – https://forms.gle/EhGi9UxaNrCFuNat8
- St. John’s Church – Rocky Ridge – https://forms.gle/ogEYkfRCGPc1Nhzj7
Thursdays, 5:30pm – 6:30pm
- Oak Harbor High School – https://forms.gle/Vjfn7m8Wc8zhB9ku8
State requirements restrict distribution sites to the eastern side of the county, beginning with Oak Harbor. Woodmore and Genoa school district residents can pick up food, but the food cannot be brought to the districts.
Although the FAC is organizing the Summer Lunch Grab Bags program, many people came together to bring the project to fruition, including dozens of volunteers who help pack meals each week at Oak Harbor High School. Post-COVID changes in state laws created new county classifications and different restrictions which made it difficult for the center to maneuver through the process to obtain state funds. Oak Harbor Mayor Quinton Babcock walked the center through the process.
“Quinton Babcock was instrumental in helping us. Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t think we would be able to do this,” Roe said. “We’re super appreciative of Quinton, the Department of Education, and B-C-S Schools for working with us.”
Babcock worked with State Sen. Theresa Gavarone to obtain funding.
“The Ottawa County Summer Lunch Grab Bags for kids program is vitally important for many families during the summer months. As schools aren’t in session over the summer, we want to ensure that children still have access to high quality food, and this program does just that,” Gavorone said. “I’m thrilled to help continue this program for Ottawa County kids this summer, and I look forward to continuing conversations to create even greater access in the future.”
Roe is grateful for Gavorone’s assistance.
“Senator Gavorone’s help was amazing. She really put herself into the mix to help us,” she said.
The center needs volunteers to help bag meals. For more information, visit the “Family Advocacy Center Ottawa County” Facebook page.
“If children don’t get these bags, there will be hungry children in Ottawa County this summer,” Walterbusch said.