Demand Rises At Central Ohio Food Pantries

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Demand rises at local food pantries as supplies tighten.(Photo: Mid Ohio Foodbank)
Demand rises at local food pantries as supplies tighten.(Photo: Mid Ohio Foodbank)

Supplies at central Ohio pantries are down for some items due to economic and political circumstances in the country, but organizers say they are doing their best to feed the hungry.

“In this section we have canned vegetables and you’re entitled at this point to have six out of this section.”

27 year old Lindsay Pooler selects grocery items, at a North High Street food pantry. She chooses cans of applesauce, creamed soup, and a couple of jars of peanut butter, that will become meals for herself and her 3 children ages 6 to 4.

“There’s tomato sauce down there you might like too.”

Pooler says she does work a part time job. But her income is too little to meet all of the family’s needs.

“They’ve saved me a few times, I love this pantry…. They do good work. If I get on my feet one of these days I’m going to come back and volunteer. They do good work here. How much will this provide for your family? It’ll last more than 3 days, they say 3 days but it’ll last a lot longer than that. We’ll make it to the beginning of the month, says Pooler.

Roy Clark is the director of the Near North Side Emergency Material Assistance Program. He says the pantry has seen a record number of families in recent days. And this year demand is at an all-time high.

“We’ve been running about probably since May about 35 to 45% over last year…for us that’s about 700 to 900 families a month, about 2,000 to 2300 family members in a month, so that’s very large compared to what we had last year.”

Clark says family members are living together in larger households and its not uncommon to have up to 14 people in one home. And he adds older clients are becoming more common.

The Mid Ohio Food bank supplies a lot of the groceries at NNEMAP. President, Matt Habash describes this year as a perfect storm.

Government cutbacks, an increase in food prices and a peanut butter crisis caused by weather issues and a crackdown on immigrants in southern states who pick the peanuts, led to less food on pantry shelves.

“There’s no reason for USDA to go in and buy up bonus peanut butter when there’s a shortage of it, so they have no reason to go into the market and do that and they shouldn’t do that when there’s a shortage of any given crop, and unfortunately what that meant for us was peanut butter loads we thought we were getting in August didn’t happen,” says Habash.

Habash adds that government commodity donations have dropped this year, and grocery stores have a better handle on their inventory. He says cereal donations are down since several manufacturers in Ohio have closed shop. However, disposable diaper donations are on the increase through a new national diaper bank attached to a major manufacturer. Habash says a million diapers have been donated.

“ So that’s a huge cost savings to us and a huge cost savings to all of the folks that we’re helping because there’s no government assistance for diapers, so you’ve got to into the market place and buy them and it’s an expensive item and when you’re on a fixed income it’s a very expensive item,” says Habash.

Habash says the combination of less supply and more demand has led some pantries to limit individuals and families to a 3 day supply of emergency food.

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