New faces, longer lines and empty shelves: Ohio’s Hunger Relief Network is sounding the alarm as it faces unprecedented challenges.
At the Southeastern Ohio Food Bank in Logan, manager Rose Frech said that with inventory at around 15% capacity, they are facing severe food shortages. This forced them to make tough decisions, she said, such as canceling direct mobile food distributions.
“The real heartbreak is that people have come to rely on us to feed their families,” Frech said. “To no longer be available to people in need – it’s frankly devastating.”
West Ohio Food Bank CEO Tommie Harner said at the same time that there had been an increase in the number of people in need of food assistance.
“A lot of them are struggling with rising inflation, the cost of fuel, the rising cost of food,” Harner said. “And you go to the grocery store and many items are unavailable.”
Ohio has nearly $2 billion in funds remaining under the American Rescue Plan Act. The Ohio Association of Foodbanks requested $183 millionincluding $50 million for emergency food purchases, but the legislature suspended the summer without meeting demand.
Harner explained that a lack of product availability, price increases and higher transportation costs are putting pressure on federal products.
“Just in the past six months, we’ve had 48 USDA food shipments that were canceled,” Harner said. “And many times those USDA foods are our protein products.”
Local food donations are also down, but Frech noted there’s not much private donors can do.
“There are a lot of really generous people who care deeply about the community,” Frech said. “But there just isn’t the same type of wealth that you would see in other areas. So we will never be able to raise the funds to get out of a situation like this.”
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