Ohio food banks are starting to get hungry




As the coronavirus pandemic enters its third year, Ohio’s food banks are in a perilous state, an official who helps manage them said on Wednesday.

The centers weathered the crisis with special relief funds and assistance from the National Guard. But as has happened several times during the pandemic, food banks are facing mounting strains as temporary relief is about to expire, said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association. of Foodbanks.

Worse, the appeals for help from food banks are directed to an audience tired by the pandemic.

“Here we are, 22 months into the onset, and we are looking at the barrel in the fifth wave (of coronavirus) and I would say there is less compassion and concern among the general population,” Hamler said- Fugitt. “I understand that everyone is fed up, but just think of the people who are on the front lines. “

Food banks, the nutritional source of last resort for many Ohioans, face the same headwinds as many other industries.

They have increasing food costs. For example, a 10-pound bag of potatoes now costs $ 1.35, up from 80 cents last year, Hamler-Fugitt said.

These costs, along with rising housing and energy costs, have led more seniors and other people on fixed incomes to seek help from food banks.

In addition, corporate donations have declined, more and more employees are working from home and donations suffer as a result. And food manufacturers have far fewer surpluses to give away because they fall prey to the same supply chain issues that so many other companies have, Hamler-Fugitt said.

At the same time, overworked food bank staff are reaching breaking point.

They had been aided by a National Guard deployment of unprecedented length, but which ended in July. And now, with Gov. Mike DeWine deploying the Guard to help hospitals moan under the pressure of the latest wave of covid, it might be unrealistic for food banks to wait for more help from this neighborhood.

“How much can we ask of our citizen soldiers and their families? Hamler-Fugitt asked. “Some of these men and women have been deployed for two bloody years. They were essential to our operations and we are very grateful to them.

In the midst of these tensions looms another, enormous. $ 250 to $ 300 per month, per child tax credit as part of the US bailout is due to expire next week. Hope for such funding died with President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which was opposed by Republicans in Congress and a Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Hamler-Fugitt said when improved credit began last summer, food banks in Ohio saw demand decline as families with children began using grocery stores instead of food banks to meet their needs. the most basic.

“There will be literally tens of millions of families (in the United States) that will depend on this child tax credit, and there will be no check on January 15,” Hamler-Fugitt said.

To counter all of these headwinds, the Ohio Association of Foodbanks is asking the DeWine administration for support of the more than $ 3 billion in American Rescue Act funds still available to the state. The association is asking for $ 183 million to strengthen the food bank infrastructure and for supplies.

“The pandemic has revealed how quickly families can fall into economic hardship and food insecurity,” the Association of Food Banks said in an Oct. 6 letter to DeWine. “In fiscal 2021, our statewide network continued to provide take-out groceries and other foods to nearly one million people each month. Although we may have weathered the storm, we have struggled – and still worry about our ability – to purchase enough food to meet demand due to rising costs of food and supply chains. unreliable. “

The DeWine administration did not respond to a request for comment.

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