The Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, the recent recipient of a $715,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation, is asking for food donations.
That’s because the grant isn’t for food purchases but for equipment and other items to increase capacity, said Michael Iberis, Second Harvest’s executive director.
The agency is putting that money to good use, he said, including the purchase of a 2,100-square-foot freezer/cooler for storage as well as a refrigerated truck for pickups and deliveries, new pallets and the creation of a nutrition education program.
Second Harvest officials didn’t know about not being permitted to use the grant money for food until after the Valley finished first in a $1 million “Fighting Hunger Together” Facebook campaign in May, Iberis said. But the food bank needed the freezer/cooler, refrigerated truck and other items, he said.
“Extra food is always a good thing, but capacity allows us to store it,” Iberis said. “In the past two years, we had to use off-site storage because we didn’t have the space” at its building at 2805 Salt Springs Road.
The need for food has grown significantly, he said. In 2003, the food bank provided 3 million pounds of food. Last year, that amount was 9 million pounds.
The agency is on pace to distribute 9.5 million to 10 million pounds of food this year, Iberis said.
In a letter to donors, Iberis wrote about the Walmart Foundation grant’s being used to increase the agency’s ability to distribute food, and that donations are needed for food for thousands of working-poor families in the area.
Second Harvest distributes food to 153 hunger-relief organizations in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties. These organizations include church pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens, shelters for battered women and after-school programs.
For information on how to help feed the hungry in the Valley, go online to mahoningvalleysecondharvest.org or call 330-792-5522.
The rest of the Walmart grant went to Catholic Charities Regional Agency, which received $275,000, and $10,000 went to Trumbull Mobile Meals in Warren.