MAHONING VALLEY Clergy: Food bank needs help

Help is needed to get the food to the people, especially in outlying areas.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Area clergy sent out a call to Mahoning Valley churches Thursday to help Second Harvest Foodbank feed the hungry.
"Small churches and large churches alike can do this. God has called every faith we invited today as a common grid" to aid in food distribution, the Rev. Gene Eason told about 30 clergy at an interfaith service at Second Harvest's new warehouse facility on Salt Springs Road. The Rev. Mr. Eason had sent 900 invitations.
The event, which included lunch and a tour of the facility, was the first local recognition of National Hunger Awareness Day, said Mr. Eason, pastor at Second Christian Church in Warren.
At Mr. Eason's request, about 10 clergy whose churches and synagogues have food distribution stood briefly during the service.
"These people can tell you what it's like out on the street," he said. It's that connection that the clergy and Second Harvest executive director Michael Iberis say they hope will aid the food bank.
Donation response is good
According to Iberis, Second Harvest has had good response for food donations, but needs help in getting it out to the people. Of the 200 organizations that distribute food for Second Harvest in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, 75 percent to 80 percent are either churches or other faith-based organizations, Iberis said. Second Harvest distributes about 26,000 pounds of food a day, or about 15,000 meals.
The day wasn't about raising money, but about encouraging churches to volunteer time and space for food distribution, Eason said after the service. His church, with an average attendance of 70 people, runs regular distributions and gives out groceries almost daily on an emergency basis.
The event was "a challenge to the faith community to help those who are hungry," said Rebecca Martinez, Second Harvest's director of Resource Development. She said help especially is needed in outlying areas such as the Masury/Brookfield area, East Liverpool and Leavittsburg.
The Rev. Felipe Estrada of the Church of God on Youngstown's East Side answered the challenge immediately after the service. The Rev. Mr. Estrada said he and his church had been thinking about establishing a food pantry because they knew there was a need.
"This was an opportunity for us to help the community," he said.

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