Monday, February 27, 2017
The relentless pain of hunger shows no signs of loosening its tight and agonizing grip on our state and region anytime soon.
A warehouse of data culled from the 2016 Map the Meal Gap study by Feeding America, the national network of food banks for the needy, offers an insightful yet disturbing glance at the scope of hunger and food insecurity that remains pervasive all around us. Among its findings:
Ohio ranks sixth nationally among the states in the prevalence of food insecurity.
In the Mahoning Valley, an estimated 89,570 children and adults lack consistent access to nutritious and adequate food.
Seventy five percent of children in the 13th Congressional District meet eligibility guidelines for free and reduced price lunches and other federal nutrition assistance. That’s the second highest rate among all 16 of Ohio districts.
Given that backdrop, it is not surprising that the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley earlier this month announced it had yet again set a record in food assistance for 2016.
The region’s primary anti-hunger organization collected and distributed a whopping 10.5 million pounds of foodstuffs to its dozens of member pantries in the tri-county region. That total represents a 100,000-pound increase over 2015 levels.
Part of that spike can be chocked up to an upturn in unemployment in our region. Data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services bears that out with Youngstown and Warren leading the state’s urban areas in high joblessness.
Some of that spike can be explained in the growing ranks of the working poor. The increased need results from the local economy’s inability to provide jobs that pay sufficiently to enable tens of thousands to escape the throes of poverty and food insecurity.
At last Census count, nearly 100,000 people in the Valley lived at or below the official federal poverty level.
Clearly it will not be surprising to see the need grow even more pronounced in 2017, as a slew of businesses, factories and stores have announced closures or layoffs in recent months. The loss of nearly one-third of the workforce at the GM Lordstown Complex last month and its ripple effects across the Valley economy will bring new hardship to many working-class families.
As that need intensifies, the Valley is indeed fortunate to have the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley and its compassionate network of partners and donors available as a critical safety net.
HARVEST FOR HUNGER
For our part, The Vindicator and our broadcast partner 21 WFMJ-TV are proud to be counted among the sponsors and supporters of the 26th annual Harvest for Hunger campaign, an intensive two-month-long food drive that kicks off 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Second Harvest’s Salt Springs Road headquarters in Youngstown.
Harvest for Hunger, the agency’s late winter-early spring campaign, is designed to raise funds and collect nonperishable food to stock shelves and feed hungry mouths when demand peaks in late spring and early summer.
The food bank and its dozens of member agencies and pantries deliver about 40,000 pounds of food assistance each day to assist those in need, including many of the more than 30,000 children in the Valley who live in poverty.
That’s why Second Harvest merits a record-setting bounty in this year’s Harvest campaign throughout March and April.
Each $1 donated translates into $15 worth of food that the agency can distribute to needy families and individuals. All food donations stay to help residents of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
To reap maximum yields this year, we urge schools, businesses, community groups and individuals to organize food and fund drives to benefit this worthwhile effort.
Call or stop by the food bank or visit its website to discover the many ways you can lend your support to cultivate success in this critically important campaign.