Area food pantries work to put disaster plans in place

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Emergency management officials want to make sure food pantries are prepared in case of an emergency. Several Hamilton County food panties will soon work to put a disaster plan in place.

Currently, there are 34 food pantries in Hamilton County. Nancy Chance with the Good Samaritan Network in Hamilton County said none of those organizations have a disaster plan in place. She said they have policies in place, but not a detailed and written emergency plan.

“If you know what you are supposed to do and you have an action plan, then it’s just like a fine tuned machine. You just go right into that action (plan) and you serve your community for the greater good,” Chance said.

On May 16 and 17, 17 food pantries will participate in the Preparing Pantry Program. During the training, people will work on putting an emergency plan together.

“Our whole focus is to ensure that they can recover quickly in the aftermath of a disaster that (takes) place,” Tom Sivak said.

Sivak is the Hamilton County Emergency Management Executive Director. He said a disaster resilient community recovers more quickly if they have a disaster plan in place. He said the program takes a whole community approach.

“When disaster happen(s), the coordination and collaboration really sits with the emergency management function overall,” Sivak said.

The 34 food pantries in the county serve a total of more than 6,000 people. The purpose of having a plan in place is crucial because it means people will continue to receive help, regardless of major flooding or a tornado.

“A tornado could take out more than one area and so we may have several pantries down. So, if we work as a team and (there is) a collaborative effort, then we can better serve the community by coming to the aid of the areas that are so hit,” Chance said.

Four people with the organization Open Doors of Washington Township, Inc. will attend the new pilot program. Open Doors is located in Westfield. Two weeks ago, it flooded following heavy rains. The organization lost 5,000 pounds of food and closed for one day.

“It is hard whenever the volunteers put that much work and effort in to not be open (for) a day,” Kurt Wanninger said.

Wanninger is the president of the Open Doors organization. Wanninger said he would like to have a disaster plan in place soon.

“To have an emergency management plan in place would be very beneficial and would be very comforting to the organization, and the volunteers, and those that donate to our organization,” Wanninger said.

Open Doors is also participating in the U.S. Postal Food Service drive on Sat. May 11. It is part of the “Stamp Out Hunger” campaign. The organization hopes they will receive enough donations to cover the ones they lost recently.

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