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Food bank kicks off fundraising campaign

By Justin Wier

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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Photo by: Robert K. Yosay

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YOUNGSTOWN

Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley has kicked off its 26th annual Harvest for Hunger fundraising campaign.

Mike Iberis, food bank executive director, said Wednesday that the spring campaign is one of the organization’s biggest fundraisers.

Last year, Second Harvest raised $233,000 and 33,000 pounds of food. The campaign runs during March and April and helps the food bank prepare for the summer months when donations tend to taper off.

Iberis said 1 in 3 people in the

Mahoning Valley qualify to receive help from food pantries, and Second Harvest serves 15,000 people each week in their soup kitchens and food pantries.

“Those are some disappointing

numbers,” Iberis said.

During a presentation, they drew

attention to two efforts the food bank has made to help hungry schoolchildren and the elderly.

Mindy DePietro, guidance counselor at Boardman Center Intermediate School, spearheaded an effort to create a food pantry at her school. She said a fifth-grade student told her kids at the school would benefit from access to food.

“I had no idea until this year the need our students have,” DePietro said. “It’s been very eye-opening for me.”

There are about 30 students who access the pantry, she said, and students whose families are better off bring in food to donate to the pantry. Iberis said the food pantry was the first of its kind in the country.

Second Harvest also serves as a distributor for a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that provides food to senior citizens. They provide boxes with cereal, juice, meat, cheese and other food items to seniors in need.

Emmanuel Community Care Center in Girard is one of the organizations with which they partner. Sister Jean Orsuto, center director, said most of the seniors who come to her center live on $760 a month or less.

“They’re very, very, very grateful,” Sister Jean said.

Jeff Mitchell, regional business leader for Giant Eagle, talked about his company’s participation. They sponsored the event and will have donation boxes in their stores and ask customers for donations when they check out.

Representatives for 21 WFMJ-TV, The Vindicator and Cumulus radio stations, who were sponsors of the event, also spoke. United Food and Commercial Workers local 880 also sponsored the event.

Iberis said Harvest for Hunger also allows the food bank to inform people of the degree to which hunger affects local communities.

“We not only have the opportunity to raise money – we also have the opportunity to educate people,” Iberis said.

He said the goal is to exceed the $203,000 Second Harvest raised last year, but the ultimate goal remains the same.

“Our goal is to be able

to feed people,” Iberis said. “No one should go hungry.”