Don’t let a slight drop in gas prices fool you into thinking the worst of the US’s faltering economy is over. One indicator that tough times are ahead is the worsening challenges faced by Ohio’s food banks.
For example, on one day last month Mahoning Valley Second Harvest Food Bank was distributing to 172 partner pantries in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties with less than 460,000 pounds of food available for distribution. This was only about 10 days’ worth of food for an important agency that generally he distributes about 50,000 pounds of food per day.
Second Harvest’s longtime executive director, Michael Iberis, told our reporter Allie Vugrincic that it was the worst he’d ever seen.
“I’ve lived here for 22 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. Never,” Iberis said.
He explained that food banks typically have about 1.3 million pounds of food on hand at any given time.
With inflation reaching a 40-year high, gas prices hovering at about $4 a gallon, and supply chain problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the perfect storm has arrived.
Gasoline prices have fallen slightly since then, but they remain high, still tightening Americans’ wallets.
As a result, food donations have decreased and the need has increased, leading many families to visit the Food Pantry for the first time.
Serving approximately 100,000 hot meals a year and distributing food weekly, the Warren Family Mission has seen a steady increase in demand over the past few years. A mission spokesperson sees dozens of people who have never visited a food pantry before coming to the weekly food rations.
The same applies to other local food distribution stations. For example, at the Church of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart in Austintown, he fed nearly 250 households in June and many more in July.
And this problem is not just a regional one.
Lisa Hamler Fugit, executive director of the Ohio Food Bank Association, told the Ohio Capital Journal that global supply chain issues, labor shortages, COVID-19, and other global trends are major stressors. says.
Food supplies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture “It’s about one-sixth less and declining.” she said. And at the same time, demand is growing sharply. Expenses such as high grocery store prices, rising home prices, and utility bills and medical bills continue to plague Buckeye residents.
Hamler-Fugitt says this means food banks are seeing food leave the shelves much faster than it comes in.
“I think things will get darker and darker before they get better.” Hamler-Fugitt says: “We are desperately worried about food.”
As community and state officials consider options to help strengthen food banks, there is more we can do. Yes, we all face the same financial challenges. Those who can afford it should do all they can to donate food, hygiene items, etc.
Those struggling in our community need such support. If there is anything I can do to help, please do so.