RIO GRANDE, Ohio – The number of families and individuals in need of food assistance has increased significantly throughout southeastern Ohio within in the last year.

At the Vinton Baptist Food Pantry in Gallia County, 8,130 people were served in 2013 with 43,980 pounds of food. Up from 6,000 served in 2012, the pantry relies entirely on volunteerism and donations.

While numerous donations and volunteers contribute, Vinton Baptist Food Pantry Director David West insisted the efforts would not be possible without the support of Enactus students from the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College.

“If it weren’t for the students there and throughout the county, we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of what we do,” West said. “It would just be impossible.”

Enactus, formerly known as SIFE, is an international collegiate organization that applies business concepts to develop community outreach projects, transforms lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.

Rio Grande Enactus members include Matt Akers, Cody Bennett, Stephanie Cartmell, Aryn Gritter, Shannon Johnson, Michael Memory, Austin Short, Becca Steiner, Skylar Thompson, Brooke Wolni and President and Project Leader Paris Morris. Carol Smith, director of the Loren M. Berry Center for Economic Education at Rio Grande, is the Enactus advisor.

Since 2008, the Rio Grande chapter of Enactus has organized an annual food drive to benefit local pantries. Enactus partnered with Campbell’s in 2009 for the Let’s Can Hunger campaign, and has continued to do so each year since.

This year’s campaign began in October and has raised 9,342 pounds of food to date for the Vinton Baptist Food Pantry. The program, which runs through March, consists of drives on the Rio Grande Campus, Rio Grande Elementary, Vinton Elementary and the Miss Heart of Christmas pageant. SODEXO Food Service also supports the food drive by offering one free pizza party at each elementary for the classroom that raises the most donations.

“The URG Enactus team promotes awareness of food insecurity in our community and helps stock the shelves of our local food pantry so that people in need can obtain food for their families,” Smith said. “We also provide information and workshops to empower people in need to break the cycle of hunger.”

The Vinton Baptist Food Pantry, located at 11818 State Road 16 in Vinton, is open Mondays fro 5 to 6:30 p.m. For more information please visit