• Sun. Dec 3rd, 2023

Food For the Hungry

Because So Much Is Riding On Your Food For the Hungry

Second Harvest warns food for hungry might soon be rationed as donations plummet – Morning Journal

Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, which provides food to local food banks and hungry families in a four-county area, is sounding the alarm that it’s getting harder and harder to feed those in need.

Cuts in government spending, a major decline in food donations from retail stores and food manufacturers, higher shipping costs related to a shortage of people with a commercial driver’s license, and rising fuel costs, along with an outbreak of the avian flu, which has killed 37.9 million chickens and turkeys, increasing the cost of what had been a low-cost protein, are just some of the contributing factors making it hard for Second Harvest and other food banks across the country to keep up with demand.

“The confluence of events is like nothing I have witnessed in my 20 years in food banking,” said Julie Chase-Morefield, president and CEO of Second Harvest, which serves clients in Lorain, Erie Crawford and Huron counties. “Since January, incoming food has decreased by 30 percent and the challenges are mounting.

“To meet the demand, we anticipate spending more than three times the amount we spent pre-pandemic. New fiscal year, we are budgeting $1.9 million in food purchasing, which will create a nearly $1 million deficit in our budget.”

Since January, Second Harvest has served 45,000 unduplicated people in Lorain County alone.

And the hunger problem is not going away.

“In Lorain County, we are still 40 percent higher than we were pre-pandemic as far as how many people we serve, but our food supply is going down,” Chase-Morefield said.

Lack of donations from food manufacturers and retailers clearly is one of the problems, she said.

“Normally, we purchase about 10 percent of our food,” Chase-Morefield said. “Right now, if you walk through the warehouse, 33 to 34 percent of that food is purchased.

“That’s not the model we are built on. We are built on being able to source donated foods and leveraging federal and state foods. The purchased product was supposed to fill in the gaps. It wasn’t supposed to be our sole source of distribution.”

Another problem has been a cut in federal food donations provided by the USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Chase-Morefield said.

Those donations were cut by 54 percent, she said.

And then there is inflation and the havoc it has played with food prices.

Since 2021, food prices overall have soared 16 percent, Chase-Morefield said.

“We are spending more money and getting less food,” she said. ”It’s a scary situation to not know if we are going to have the food we need to serve the families that are struggling.”

Second Harvest staff and volunteers got an up-close look at what the future could hold for the organization and those who use its services: it’s called rationing.

“We’ve already had to do that at some for our distributions,” Chase-Morefield said.

As an example, she used a recent distribution at Lorain High School where 550 families were served.

“It got to the end of the distribution, and even if there were two families in one car, we could only give them one box because we don’t have any more boxes,” Chase-Morefield said. “I think that what you are going to see is we are going to spread out the food we have a little thinner.”

Not being able to give someone the food they were expecting was heartbreaking, she said.

“It’s to look people in the eye and say we don’t have any more food,” Chase-Morefield said. “We don’t want to turn anybody away.”

For additional funding, the Ohio Association Foodbanks, a collection of 12 food banks around the state of which Second Harvest is a member, is pressuring the state for funding, according to a news release from the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

The state announced earlier this month that it has $809 million in ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Funds that it just put into its Capital Budget, the release said.

The foodbanks are asking for $50 million of that money, according to the release.

“We are calling on Gov. (Mike) DeWine and members of the Ohio General Assembly to act, with urgency, to help us prevent hunger now and promote stability in the months ahead,” the release said.


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