Every day Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio witnesses the need for food in Lorain County. With the coronavirus pandemic and more people out of work, the demand has escalated. Second Harvest has created drive-thru distribution centers and even called in the National Guard for help getting food to residents.

The Lorain County Community Action Agency (LCCAA), which serves and empowers Lorain County residents in need, has also stepped in to help with distribution and packing food in the warehouse and distribution center.

This fall, the agency had partnered with Ohio Means Jobs to help Second Harvest distribute food, as well as give work experience to teens and young adults. Josh Smith, LCCAA youth services coordinator, says the pandemic made it difficult to find jobs for the approximately 20 youth between ages 16 and 22. Even the bicycle repair shop at LCCAA, where students can learn to repair and refurbish bikes for resale, shut down due the virus; and college visits and mentoring opportunities aren’t possible.

But Second Harvest welcomes the help. “We wanted something for the kids to be able to do and Second Harvest had this need,” explains Smith. “[Normally], the kids are usually benefitting the community somehow, getting experience. Here, we’re helping youth help the community.”

Some of the participants are in the warehouse — sorting food and packing boxes for distribution — while others are out in the community making distributions.

“The plan is to use equipment like automated power jacks so they get skills to put on their resumes,” explains Smith of the warehouse workers. “The distributors go out in the community, where hundreds and hundreds of families are being saved. They’re working alongside the National Guard right now — who are not only good role models, they’re good people.”

Smith says the experience has been great for the youth. “They [Second Harvest] have a whole complex system, and it has to run like clockwork,” he says. “And the youth are just on it. They really know what they’re doing now.”