Basic Necessities, Food Banks

By Kiara Morgan

When you think about food banks, what do you think about? If you’re from the wealthy class you may think that it’s a place where all the poor people go. If you have currently lost a job or suffer from homelessness, you know how valuable food pantries, food banks and hot meal programs can be.  The Food Bank is the place that provides the food for your hot meal programs and makes the food available for the bags distributed in hundreds of thousands of bags per year.

Food banks receive surplus, government supplies, and donations from around the region, and then store that food in large warehouses. The Cleveland Foodbank then has an extensive transportation network to get prepared meals and bags of food out to the many food pantries and hot meal programs and shelters. The Cleveland Foodbank is the provider for many places in Northeast Ohio including Cuyahoga, Richland, Ashland, Geagua, and Lake Counties.

Food donations can come from individuals, but mostly come from wholesalers, retailers and manufacturers. These are usually canned or non-perishable items, but the FoodBank distributes millions of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables every year. A combination of food and money comes from governmental agencies, non-profits, municipalities, and city food drives and funds. Most pantries and hot meal programs pay a standard amount per pound for supplies and food, but there are thousands of pounds of free food available every day to eligible programs.

 With the economy still struggling and jobs becoming scarce throughout Cleveland, our basic necessities are becoming harder to obtain, according to a March 2011 press release from the FoodBank.  “Hunger is a serious and urgent problem right in our own community and it continues to get worse. The Foodbank’s distribution is up by 50% over the last two years,” according to Anne Goodman CEO of the Cleveland FoodBank.  Places such as shelters rely heavily on food from the Cleveland Foodbank. The Community Women’s Shelter Continue Life Inc., and Volunteers of America receive food and support from the Cleveland Foodbank.

 Other organizations working in conjunction with the Foodbank include Stella Maris, West Haven Youth Center and the Salvation Army shelters. Some programs such as the Norma Herr Women’s Shelter receives prepared meals from the Cleveland FoodBank, while places such as 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter receive truckloads of ingredients in which they prepare 1,000 meals a day. These are just some of the hundreds of organizations who are working with the Cleveland Foodbank.

 We don’t realize how important this basic necessity is to so many people in Greater Cleveland. Last year, the FoodBank distributed enough food for 12 million meals.  Those who see a homeless person on the street cannot possibly understand how hunger impacts the decisions and changes their lives. So many use the term “I’m starving,” but forget how many people are actually starving in the United States and throughout the world. About 1 billion people go to bed hungry worldwide. In 2011, a food shortage epidemic has been reported around the world because of high fuel costs and the expense of getting food to areas of need.

 Child hunger has become a major problem in the United States too. About 22 million children are on food stamps, about half of all food stamp recipients. In a time when food stamps are facing federal cuts, food banks are having trouble accommodating the large amount of people in need. Children make up 34% of recipients of food from the Cleveland Foodbank. So many children in America go to bed hungry and receive meals only from school lunch. Some who receive this food don’t even have their own bed since 5% of those who receive food from the Cleveland Foodbank are homeless.

Although, many foodbanks report a lack of food, the Cleveland Foodbank is holding strong. The Community West Foundation has currently agreed to match dollar for dollar every donation to the Cleveland Foodbank, up to $100,000. This has influenced other donors to increase the total matching to $200,000. The Cleveland Foodbank is hoping to raise a total of $400,000 from through September.  The goal is to increase donations and support to distribute 13 million meals in 2011. 

 The Cleveland Foodbank website has a number of opportunities listed to help stamp out hunger locally. Charity is the best way to get things done and the FoodBank could use food, groups can volunteer their time, and they are always looking for financial support. This can be as simple as extending your shopping list to include some canned goods and boxed foods and taking it to your nearest food pantry or donating online to the FoodBank. A good way to increase your donation without digging into your own pocket is to check with your Human Resources department of your employer to find out if your company matches employee donations. You may have to fill out a matching gift request form; most corporate programs allow an employee up to one year to request a match for their donation.

Copyright Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and The Street Chronicle published Sept. 2011 Cleveland, Ohio