Ohio Reformatory for Women packaging 200,000 meals for hungry families

MARYSVILLE, OH (WCMH) — Going without a meal happens too often in both our country and abroad.

Simple, nutritious and easy-to-serve meals are the forte of the group Outreach Inc. For two days they are partnering with the Ohio Reformatory for Woman (ORW) to package 200,000 meals.

Outreach provided the food with a grant from Governor John Kasich’s office and ORW provided the women-power; specifically female offenders.

One-hundred female offenders, all serving a life sentence, who call themselves the LIFER Group, (Looking Inward For Excellence) are responsible for packaging those meals for local food banks and pantries to help feed the needy.

Almost all of the women are locked up for murder.

“I want to give back to society. I want to atone for what I have done,” said Jennifer Bainbridge. “This is my chance to show that I am not a horrible person. We have made mistakes, but we still care about society and our community as a whole,” she said.

Bainbridge who is the President of the LIFER Group is from Mahoning County, and has been in prison for 23 years. She said she was convicted of aggravated murder, kidnapping and theft.

She said all the women packaging meals in the prison gym are there as volunteers.

Working at a different table, Erica Orta’s job was to box the packaged meals for shipment. She is also in ORW for murder and has spent 13 years behind bars.

“There are many women within this institution that have been on the streets and were starving and their families were starving; some of them committed crimes to help feed their families,” Bainbridge said.

“I was once one of those people out on the streets without food, and I understand what it is like and more than anything I would love to give back to whoever is in need,” Orta said.

The main motivation for most of these women is an opportunity to give back to folks who they said are in worst shape than they. “I like the fact they add extra protein and stuff in there, because protein is very important for our bodies and I believe a lot of people are protein deficient, especially the hungry,” said Orta.

Outreach is a nonprofit organization offering macaroni and cheese, rice and bean, and rice Casserole meals. They have provided 260 million meals over the last decade, said Rick McNary. He said Outreach Inc. was started by Floyd and Kathy Hammer of Iowa in 2004 after seeing starving and dying children in Tanzania.

“Their mission is to fulfill four promises; to provide safe water, food, medical care and education to families in need,” McNary told the female offenders before they started packaging the meals.

On Thursday 13 pantries and food banks, including the MidOhio Food Bank, Salvation Army and Union County Hope Center will pick up the pallets of packaged meals for distribution in their communities.

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