MEDINA, Ohio -- The Medina County Park District has been widely recognized and praised for its mission of protecting natural resources, preserving wildlife and woodlands, creating wetlands and developing parkland for the public to enjoy.
Recently, the district was honored for a different type of service to the community.
The Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) has announced that one of its 2022 first-place awards of excellence, in the category of health and wellness programs, will be presented in January to the park district and Feeding Medina County for their unique partnership.
The park district’s mission includes the words “to enhance the quality of all life.” That doesn’t always take the form of parks, trails and conservation.
Beginning on April 1, 2021, the park district partnered with local food pantry Feeding Medina County to bring monthly food distribution events to the district’s then-underused Hidden Hollow Camp just outside the Village of Lodi, where nearly 15 percent of residents live in poverty.
Katy Fuerst, executive director of Feeding Medina County, said, “Partnering with the MCPD has made a huge impact on the accessibility of healthy, free food for families and individuals in the southwestern portion of our county.”
At the first distribution event, 119 people were served; in November of this year, 490 people received free food at Hidden Hollow. To date, a total of over 37,000 meals have been provided to participants at the Lodi food distributions.
Fuerst explained the origin of the partnership: “When I took over FMC in January 2021, Nate Eppink, director of the parks, called and asked about a partnership. We are neighbors in Sharon Center. Nate offered Hidden Hollow as a distribution site.”
Fuerst accepted the offer, and the rest is history.
The first distribution was held during a snowstorm, with volunteers from Cloverleaf High School and some park district employees.
The park is the first satellite food distribution in the county. It is open for business from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month.
Feeding Medina County also offers food distributions on the second Thursday of the month at the old Brunswick middle school, third Thursdays at its original site at the Medina County Fairgrounds and fourth Thursdays at Wadsworth High School’s football stadium.
An average of 3,200 people a month are served.
“All four sites are open to anyone in need in the county,” said Fuerst.
Read more from the Medina Sun.