YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Second Harvest Food Bank, the Valley’s largest distributor of food for the less fortunate, is looking for some help of its own.
Supporters on Wednesday morning kicked off the 24th annual Harvest for Hunger campaign at the food bank’s warehouse on Salt Springs Road. From now until the end of April, workers and volunteers will be collecting donations of food and money to help keep the warehouse fully stocked for the spring and summer months when donations taper off.
Food bank officials said more than 9.5 million pounds of food was distributed last year to Second Harvest’s local network of pantries and soup kitchens. That included 2 million pounds of fresh food and vegetables.
“That equates to about 50,000 pounds per day, which is very, very significant. Every day, that equates to about 200,000 meals that are being provided in Columbiana, Trumbull and Mahoning counties to people that are hungry,” Mike Iberis of Second Harvest Food Bank said.
Organizers said last year’s Harvest for Hunger effort raised more than $175,000 and collected nearly 60,000 pounds of donated food, equaling one million meals around the area.
Iberis said the problems being experienced in the area are fairly close to national averages for poverty and need.
“Over 53 percent of the children that go to school in our three-county area are eligible for the free and reduced lunch. That means they came from a family that is in some degree of poverty. And it is frustrating for most of us to see that,” Iberis said.
Financial donations can be made at Giant Eagle by tearing off a $1, $5 or $10 coupon at the register Feb. 22 through April 11. Donations also can be made at participating Sparkle Markets and Walgreens locations from March 1 through April 11. Donations are added to a customer’s bill.
Second Harvest Food Bank distributes food to 153 hunger relief organizations in the tri-county area. These organizations include church pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens, shelters for battered women and after-school programs.