In 2008 Leadership Worthington research showed a need for food in Worthington. They went to the Healthy Worthington Coalition, led by Sandy Byers, and Food for Families was established, initially collecting food and funds at the Worthington Farmers’ Market for three small pantries that served Worthington. It became clear that the need was greater than anticipated.
By July 2009, Healthy Worthington Coalition's Food for Families Pantry opened in donated space at the Methodist Children’s Home in Worthington. Five key volunteers, Aura Whittaker, Barry Bennett, Bobbie Justice, Dave Wade, and Sandy Hindall, collected donated food and funds and distributed food to Worthington area neighbors six hours a week.
In August, 2010, the program more than doubled its space by moving to the OSU/Harding campus. The organization established a “choice” pantry, allowing participants to make their own choices of food items within categories. It also offered assistance with obtaining additional information about resources in the hope that families would transition to a more stable, healthful situation. The name changed to the Worthington Food Pantry and Resource Center. In 2012, the Pantry hired its first paid staff member; it now has four employees.
Many Worthington residents experienced economic setbacks as a result of our national recession. For example, in 2009, 22.5% of the children in Worthington School District were eligible for free or reduced cost lunches; in 2014, 30% of Worthington School District children were eligible. As residents experienced layoffs, cuts in hours, and medical emergencies, the need for the Pantry has grown. In 2016, pantry visits increased 20% over visits in 2015. We expect the trend to continue.