DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Food pantries in the Miami Valley are requesting volunteers ahead of the holiday season as the community sees an increased demand for food assistance brought on by the pandemic.

With the price of groceries and other goods continuing to spike, chief operations officer for The Foodbank, Lee Lauren Truesdale, said families who’ve never utilized food assistance programs are requesting help for the first time. 

“We have a lot of folks who [are] just like, food is too expensive for them right now, and they just can’t afford to buy everything they need,” said Truesdale. “They can maybe buy some of those items that their family might need, but there’s other outlying items that are a little too expensive. Maybe that’s dairy, maybe it is some protein items, sometimes it’s even shelf stable items like baby formula or items that are traditionally a little expensive as well and that are just difficult for them to afford right now.”

For those reasons, food pantries are anticipating there will be more people to serve, and as a result, they could use more community volunteer hours.

“We’re going to need volunteers at all of our mobile locations,” said Nicole Adkins, executive director of With God’s Grace food pantry. “We’re going to be doing the Thanksgiving giveaway — that is to be set at a later date once we get everything in order. And we also need volunteers here at the grocery store.”

Adkins said they’re also requesting Thanksgiving meal essentials — particularly whole turkeys and chickens — as the price to access large quantities of the meats has become burdensome. She said the pantry is also accepting side items such and cranberry sauce, potatoes, stuffing and pumpkins. 

Truesdale said they too could use some helping hands throughout the holiday season, even after filling nearly 20 permanent positions throughout the course of the pandemic.

“We run two shifts Monday through Thursday for volunteers to arrive,” she said. “If they need to do a morning shift we have folks sometimes operate the drive-thru, go out to the local farmers market or pack food boxes, and the afternoon shift is usually packing food boxes as well, or shorting donated food drive items.”

Truesdale added, while The Foodbank will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, they will continue to distribute food leading up to the holiday, including at a mass distribution the organization plans to hold in collaboration with CareSource Thursday, Oct. 28.

Adkins said staff at With God’s Grace will also coordinate a time and location for community members to pick up Thanksgiving meals at one of their mobile pantries.

“Anything is better than not having a Thanksgiving dinner, and it’s all about being together and being with family and sharing everything with each other, and that’s what we want to bring to the dinner table. Just to have a nice meal for them and to be able to enjoy the holiday season,” she said.

To volunteer at With God’s Grace, Adkins said community members can simply show up an hour early to one of their mobile pantry locations, or call (937) 397-4124. 

Those interested in volunteering at The Foodbank can sign up at thefoodbankdayton.org/volunteer or reach out to The Foodbank Inc. on the organization’s social media platforms.