By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- An estimated 1.2 million Ohioans received emergency food assistance in 2005 through Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks, the association says.
"That's one-tenth of the state's population," said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, the association's executive director. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Ohio's population in July 2005 was 11.46 million.
"Hunger in Ohio is a prevalent issue that is draining our state's citizens," Hamler-Fugitt said.
The statistic was part of a new report -- Hunger in America 2006 -- by America's Second Harvest, the country's largest domestic hunger-relief organization. The organization provides food to the needy through food banks and other organizations.
Among the report's findings:
In any given week, 207,700 Ohioans receive some emergency food assistance.
Children under the age of 18 make up 35 percent of those being served emergency food.
Senior citizens make up about 9 percent of those being served.
The food banks' report indicates that Ohioans increasingly are being forced to make choices between buying food and other paying for other needs.
The report says 46 percent of those surveyed had to choose between paying for food and paying for utility bills or home heating fuel.
"One of the most important take-aways from this survey is that many of the Ohioans we serve are employed yet still cannot make ends meet," Hamler-Fugitt said. & quot;One out of three households surveyed have at least one adult who is working."
Reasons for increase
Dan Flowers, the chief executive of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, said he has seen a boost in the numbers of people his organization serves in its eight-county area.
Some of the Akron food bank's clients say they're getting emergency food because of job loss, Flowers said. Of those clients who are working, some cite stagnant wages as the reason they're getting emergency food, Flowers said.
Demand for emergency food at the Akron-area food banks sometimes outpaces supply, he added.
"When we get products in, they are gone," Flowers said.
The food banks are seeking an additional $14 million in state funding to expand the Ohio Food Program, which allows food banks to work with food manufacturers to purchase nonperishable items, and the Ohio Agricultural Surplus Production Alliance, which allows food banks to work with Ohio farmers and commodity producers to buy their surplus at a deep discount.
The food banks are also asking the state to invest surplus federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families funding to expand income support programs that help lift families out of poverty.