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Mobile Summer Food Pantry starts Friday

Bookmobile to have new presence on some dates

GETTING READY — Looking over a schedule for Urban Mission Ministries’ Mobile Summer Food Pantry that kicks off Friday at five stops in Steubenville and Wintersville and continues each Friday through Aug. 12 are, from left, Jennifer Cesta, public relations coordinator for the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, representating the Bookmobile that will have a presence on some of the dates; Bobbyjon Bauman, director of Sycamore Youth Center that will join on the mobile pantry route while also serving food/meals at the center on Fridays; and Cynthia Lytle, Urban Mission’s program and community development director. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — Urban Mission Ministries is preparing to get its Mobile Summer Food Pantry on the road for a third year, ready to reach as many as 300 children on a weekly basis.

Set to kick off Friday, the MSFP will operate as a 10-week free program available to children ages 1 to 18 on Fridays through Aug. 12, explained Cynthia Lytle, Urban Mission’s program and community development director.

The mobile pantry will operate on a first-come, first-served basis at the following stops:

– Ridgewood Place Apartments, Wintersville, 11:30 a.m.;

– Briarwood Apartments, Wintersville, 11:55 a.m.;

– Elmer White Family Units, North End, Steubenville, 12:25 p.m.;

– Heritage Place Apartments, Market Square, Steubenville, 12:45 p.m.; and

– Earl Rogers Plaza, South End, Steubenville, 1:10 p.m.

Times vary for each pantry stop, and parents and children will be asked to check delivery times for the nearest pantry stop, Lytle noted.

Food items for the mobile pantry are made available through partnerships with the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, along with other community contributions and sponsorships. Funding for the mobile pantry is provided by the United Methodist Appalachian Ministry Network and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, according to Lytle.

Volunteering, giving monetary donations or providing in-kind donations of “kid-friendly, individually wrapped food items” are ways the community can get involved, noted Lytle, who can be contacted for information or questions at (740) 282-8010 or visit urbanmission.org.

“Joining the Urban Mission on the Mobile Summer Food Pantry route this year will be our friends from the Sycamore Youth Center, the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County Bookmobile and Family Recovery,” Lytle explained, noting Sycamore came alongside the mission’s MSFP last year.

In addition to joining the mobile pantry route, the Sycamore Youth Center headed by Director Bobbyjon Bauman will be serving food/meals out of its location at 301 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For information on the Sycamore Summer Food Program, contact Bauman at (740) 409-2692 or visit sycamorecenter.com.

Sycamore’s presence with the MSFP involves “giving out different food that the children can eat that day as well as food they can eat over the weekend when the local schools will not be serving food.”

“We will be partnering with the Urban Mission on this in that both groups will be going to the same sites to deliver food at the same time so that the people will be able to receive the food at the same point in time each week and will get food from both agencies, although the food will be different,” he noted. “Sycamore will give out shelf stable meals that children can eat immediately whereas the mission will give out food that will most often need to be prepared.”

Bauman said Sycamore staff met with library representatives Sarita Asawa and Jennifer Cesta “and we are thrilled to announce that not only will we be partnering with the Urban Mission but also the Bookmobile will be joining us on June 25, July 16 and Aug. 6 for our food pantry stops in Steubenville and Wintersville.”

Parents will have the opportunity to register their children — and themselves if they wish — for a library card, according to Bauman. This can be done on the bookmobile, and parents will need a form of ID and proof of address such as a bill.

The Bookmobile presence pleases Cesta, the library’s public relations coordinator.

“I think it’s wonderful that the bookmobile will be at these stops and that we’ll be able to register children as well as parents for a library card if they wish to receive one. That’s the first step in getting books into their hands and introducing them to the library if they haven’t already been there.”

The summer food program keeps morphing into something more, Lytle agreed, noting that last year, “God blessed us with a van.”

“Last year it was Sycamore’s first year coming out with the Urban Mission so they are coming alongside us again and then Bobbyjon brought in the library,” she said. “And then you’re going to start seeing Family Recovery coming out with us and see a little bit of the Jefferson County Health Department so it’s extra fun for the kids and some surprises, too,” she said.

That brings into the mix resources intertwined with fun, according to Lytle.

The mission program has scaled back from two days a week to one as it was held on Wednesdays and Friday. “Thanks be to God there are other folks in the community that are filling in some gaps this summer.”

“We’re anticipating that first Friday to see anywhere from 100 to 135 kids. That’s how we kicked off last year, but on any given Friday, we could see as many as 300, so we’re really excited, and we have big stops out in Wintersville,” Lytle commented.

In response to COVID-19, the mobile pantry will implement several health and safety procedures, including:

– As an alternative to children hand-selecting food items from the mobile pantry, all food items will be pre-packed and distributed;

– All MSFP staff and volunteers assisting children at pantry stops will be kept abreast on and adhere to current face covering requirements.

– MSFP staff and volunteers will set up line markers at each stop to aide participants in maintaining a 6-foot distance while waiting in line; and

– Hand sanitizer will be made available to participants at each pantry stop.

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