‘Orange’ puts focus on food banks

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Wearing the color orange on Thursday helped draw attention to area hunger relief efforts.

Second Harvest Food Bank was encouraging people to take part in ‘Go Orange Day’ because it’s the symbolic color for hunger.

Food bank officials said there was a 14 percent increase in the number of people visiting food pantries last year and the need for donations is greater than ever.

Thursday’s effort was held in conjunction with National Hunger Action Month.

All this month, workers with Blue Sky Therapy’s 10 area locations are collecting food for the Second Harvest Food Bank.

“We decided to collect peanut butter and tuna fish,” said Blue Sky Therapy’s Megan Kovacich. “It was something easy that somebody always picks up at the store when they’re there. And we thought we’d make it really easy on our therapists to collect items that were most needed.”

Food bank directors are hoping to encourage other businesses to hold their own collections.

“We need more people that will step up to the plate and help their friends and neighbors in the Mahoning Valley that are hungry,” said Second Harvest Executive Director Mike Iberis.

Workers and volunteers each month distribute about 9 million pounds of food to help local soup kitchens and food pantries. The Bolindale Christian Church in Howland helps roughly 90 families each month.

“But come November, when it gets cold and wet outside and seasonal jobs go, then we’re looking at probably somewhere between 120 and 125 families per month,” said Bolindale Food Pantry Director Chuck Mackey.

Food bank volunteer Diane Kleeh helped conduct a survey for the food bank this summer and saw that need firsthand.

“And so I actually went out to the food pantries and could see where the food went from here,” Kleeh said.

Directors said the problems of hunger are not confined to the inner cities.

“More than 50 percent of the children that live in the Mahoning Valley are on free and reduced lunch,” Iberis said. “That tells us that they come from a family that’s at or below the poverty level.”

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