Ohio Advocates for the Poor says more working families need help with food.

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As the holidays near, a growing number of working ohio families are turning to non-profit agencies for food.

The executive director of a statewide charitable oversight agency says its most recent figures show one out of every ten Ohioans turned to charity for food between July and September.

And, advocates says the situation is getting worse. WOSU’s Marilyn Smith reports.

Angela Malone’s husband turned to general contracting after losing his full time job several years ago. The mother of four children, Malone says the family has since had its ups and downs but lately the lean times have outnumbered the good.

The family’s home is in foreclosure and Malone has turned to the food pantry at St. Stephen’s Community House on the northeast side of Columbus for help. Malone says it is very humbling to stand in line for food. Malone is not alone. Forty-five year old Cynthia Arnold moved from Georgia to Ohio seven years ago to be closer to her father. She became ill during the transition at a time when she was jobless and homeless.

Arnold found treatment at St. Stephen’s. Today, Arnold has a place to live and a job. But a salary hovering just above minimum wage and no benefits force her to turn to St. Stephan’s when gas and groceries compete for dwindling dollars. St. Stephen’s Executive Director Michelle Mills says the community house is seeing a more working families each month; on average seventy-five to one-hundred-fifteen more.

Mills says some potential St. Stephen’s donors are reluctant to give this year citing their own precarious financial situations. Fewer donations, Mills says, are jeopardizing the center’s major holiday drive, Christmas Care.

Mills says something has got to give. St. Stephen’s needs to feed two thousand families on December twenty-second.

based on a count conducted from July first through September thirtheth, Second Harvest Foodbanks Executive Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt says agencies under the Second Harvest umbrella provided food to one-pont-two million Ohioans.

Four- hundred-ninety-three thousand of those, she says were children. Hamler-Fugitt says this growing demand for food comes at a time when resources are drying up.

She says stores like Cosco and Target are creating secondary markets for food that did not previously exist. Food once targeted for distribution among the poor is now being sold.

Hamler-Fugitt says the overall economy, an increase in the cost of food and gasoline, wage stagnation and unemployement are making it difficult for ohio working families to make ends meet.

Both Mills and Hamler-Fugitt see little relief in the near future. Mills predicts in the future some non-profits will be forced to merge or close at a time when more and more Ohioans are turning to them for help.

Hamler-Fugitt says there is something wrong in America when working people can’t afford to buy food in the grocery store and must wait inline at the food pantry.

Stay-at-home mom, Angela Malone isn’t taking any chances. She’s in training to be a day care provider to supplement the family’s spotty income.

Marilyn Smith, WOSU News

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