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Commission wants more commodities

Federal legislators will seek extra food commodities for Lawrence County’s low-income families, at the urging of a county commissioner who wants more distribution areas opened.

Monday, August 23, 1999

Federal legislators will seek extra food commodities for Lawrence County’s low-income families, at the urging of a county commissioner who wants more distribution areas opened.

"We’ve got to put the heat on to get more commodities in here," said commissioner Paul Herrell, who has contacted U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine’s office about the issue.

DeWine’s office is seeking an increase in amounts of commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Herrell said.

More local distribution centers, including one in Ironton, should result if an increase is possible, he said.

The issue surfaced when Sherman Thompson Towers residents complained to Herrell that they could not receive the free food – ranging from cereals and peanut butter to juices and pasta – because they could not travel.

Commodities are distributed in Coal Grove, South Point and at least one township. Eligible Ironton residents must go to South Point.

"The city had tried to distribute, but gave up some time ago," Herrell said. "We need a distributor in Ironton, and the problem here is the supply went down."

Local distributors who handle the commodities on a volunteer basis echo Herrell’s argument, saying the amount of food and willing volunteers have always determined the distribution schedule.

"We would be thrilled to death if everywhere in the county could get commodities, but there is no physical way unless the USDA changes the allocation," said Louella Crabtree, volunteer distributor.

By contract, the USDA sends truckloads of food each month to Shared Harvest Food Bank in Ohio, which serves 19 counties. Mrs. Crabtree and other volunteers receive Lawrence County’s percentage of commodities, bag them and hand them out to those who meet the government’s income guidelines.

"It’s all first-come, first-served," Mrs. Crabtree said. "We have people who line up at 6 a.m., but we get the majority."

When the approved distributors in Ironton quit, that left the South Point Millwright Union Hall as the only commodity center for city residents, she said.

Proctorville, Chesapeake, Burlington, Perry Township and Windsor Township residents must also travel to the hall. South Point residents receive food on a different day.

Although distributors try, there is not enough food to divide for centers in every community and other volunteers rarely step forward because there is more to distributing commodities than people realize, Mrs. Crabtree said.

Wilma Wineka, distributor in Coal Grove, understands the commodity plight firsthand.

"I’m 83. It’s all volunteer work. And nobody wants to take it," Mrs. Wineka said. "I turned it over to the village council and they couldn’t find anybody "

In the past, Ironton residents could line up for Coal Grove commodities, but that was when the village received enough for 480 people, she said. Now it receives only enough for 90 people.

"I did the best I could do last month and I turned away 25 Coal Grove residents," Mrs. Wineka said.

Herrell said the answer lies in political pressure.

"We’ve got to push it on through Sen. DeWine and other routes to try to get commodities out there," he said. "If I can get supplies, there will be a distributor in Ironton if I have to do it myself."

Mrs. Crabtree agreed.

"What we always say is write your congressmen, write your senator," she said. "I’m just a small person down here."