GM idling makes hunger campaign more poignant


Expect the turbulent ripple effects of this week’s idling of the workforce of the Mahoning Valley’s largest private industry to rumble with increasing ferocity in the coming days and weeks.

Yes, social-service agencies, educational institutions, private employers and others will be inundated with hundreds of workers who have lost their jobs with the end of automobile production – at least for the foreseeable future – at the once sprawling General Motors Lordstown Assembly Complex.

At The Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, officials rightly anticipate a tidal wave of need.

It is therefore particularly well-timed that Second Harvest this week simultaneously launched one of its biggest signature campaigns of the year to raise food and funds for the swelling ranks of individuals among us who might otherwise go to bed hungry.

The 29th annual Harvest for Hunger campaign, an intensive two month-long drive throughout Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, kicked off Tuesday at the food bank’s headquarters on Salt Springs Road on Youngstown’s West Side.

For our part, The Vindicator and our broadcast partner 21 WFMJ-TV once again are proud to be counted among the sponsors and supporters of this historically successful community- outreach operation.

Veteran Second Harvest Executive Director Mike Iberis minced no words in explaining the challenges the food bank faces at the threshold of this critical 2019 campaign.

“We’re in a really rough time right now with the job situation,” Iberis told supporters at the kickoff.

A study from Cleveland State University released this week on the economic fallout from the shutdown of the plant that once employed 15,000 people quantifies just how rough that impact will be. To be sure, its findings can serve as a gauge for almost certain increased demand for the food bank’s products and services.

The total shutdown of the 53-year-old factory translates into a loss of $1.6 billion or nearly 10 percent of the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman’s Gross Regional Product, the sum of all goods and services produced here.

Certainly, unemployment and poverty will spike in the short term, meaning increased demand for assistance and a dire need for an increased supply of nonperishable foodstuffs at the Second Harvest’s warehouse.

STURDY AND RELIABLE SAFETY NET

In the face of such widespread need, it is fortunate indeed to have the food bank and its compassionate network of partners and donors available as a reliable and sturdy safety net.

Harvest for Hunger traditionally has aimed to 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.

Last year, the agency distributed more than 10 million pounds of food in the region, a figure that has remained relatively stable in recent years despite an improving economy elsewhere in the state and nation.

To put that 10 million pounds in perspective, it would take 3,600 Chevrolet Cruze sedans lined end to end along a 120-mile stretch to equal that weight.

Clearly, that overwhelming need means Second Harvest merits a record-setting bounty in this year’s campaign. One convenient and easy way to help it achieve that goal is to contribute at the checkout of Giant Eagle and participating Sparkle markets.

Each $1 donated through April translates into $15 worth of food that the agency can distribute to needy families and individuals. All food donations stay to help residents of the Mahoning Valley.

To reap maximum yields this year, we also urge schools, businesses, community groups and individuals to organize food and fund drives to benefit this worthwhile effort. Typically, hundreds of classrooms, clubs, businesses, neighborhood groups and others rise to the challenge.

This year that challenge looms even larger. If in past years you’ve toyed with the idea of joining the growing ranks of participants in the Harvest, make this year the time you commit to playing an active role in helping the food bank continue to carry out its humanitarian mission.

Call or stop by the food bank or visit its website to discover the many ways you can lend a hand to cultivate success in this spring’s critically important communitywide campaign.

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