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Lakewood Organization Distributes 5.5 Tons of Food Saturday

Produce distribution, hot meal and dental clinic serve hundreds despite declining unemployment.

Women in babushkas and hijabs and men in VFW hats peppered a line of hundreds of people Saturday at for a hot meal, children’s dental clinic and produce distribution.

Organizer said Trinity Lakewood Community Outreach — the group he helped found, that puts on the monthly event — distributed more than 11,000 pounds of fresh produce to 214 households, reaching an estimated 1,000 people.

“It’s nice to know that so many people are going to have fresh produce for Thanksgiving,” Weiner said.

Unfortunately, that’s a luxury many Americans don’t have.

In 2010, 48.8 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, meaning one or more members of a household didn’t have access to enough food for a healthy, active lifestyle, according to statistics from Feeding America, a hunger advocacy organization.

In Cuyahoga County, nearly one in five households — or 18.2 percent — is food insecure.

For some, events like TLCO’s , which served 114 meals, are the last line of defense to food insecurity.

“If it weren’t for this, I wouldn’t have anything,” said Lynn Johnston, 56, as she sat on the stage in the basement of the church waiting for her plate of green beans, potatoes and pasta. “A lot of people need this.”

And need is growing.

Trish Rooney, executive director at , said her organization provided food assistance to 2,273 people last month, a 17 percent increase from October 2010.

“It just keeps going and going and going,” she said. “It’s not going away.”

Over that same period of time, Cuyahoga County’s unemployment rate fell 1.2 percent, from 8.8 percent to 7.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jennifer Meeker, 37, is no longer unemployed, but she took a cut in pay and benefits.

“I was laid-off from my job as a public teacher in March,” Meeker said. “I now teach in a private school, so we lost our dental insurance.”

Meeker brought her two children, 7-year-old Gavin and 5-year-old Talia, to the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, a mobile dental clinic sponsored by the Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Irving and Jeanne Tapper Pediatric Dental Center at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

Nine children between the ages of 3 and 12 received free dental exams at the Care Mobile at Trinity Lutheran Church on Saturday.

Care Mobile Scheduling Consultant Kim Burton said the program is to help people like Jennifer who don’t have a regular dentist, or for people who are either working or in school when their dentist is open.

“We go around to the communities, and do everything we can to help,” Burton said.

Trinity Lakewood Community Outreach receives no shortage of help.

Every month, Weiner said dozens of volunteers show up, some coming from as far as Cleveland Heights and Strongsville, and some who also receive produce.

“The breadth of volunteers here is just amazing,” Weiner said. “This whole thing wouldn’t happen without them.

Matt Heisey brought his 8-year old son Quinn, a boy scout, to volunteer.

“It’s good for the kids to see that people out there need help,” he said.

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