YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) visited the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley on Monday, urging Ohioans to support local food banks this holiday season.
“The senator cares deeply about people that are struggling, and he’s been a friend of the food bank for many years,” said Mike Iberis, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank. “We just appreciate him visiting. Any time he gets a chance to visit, he does.”
Brown highlighted the Senate passing a tax provision that gives a deduction to individuals or companies who donate. Individual families who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit can also get a significant credit.
On Friday, Congress approved a $1.1-trillion funding bill, including permanently extending a tax deduction on food donations. The bill also increases the deduction to 15 percent of one’s taxable income for food donations.
“This is especially good news for local food banks that rely on donations to feed those most in need,” Brown said. “There are far too many people making $11 an hour or less. This helps stretch their dollars a little more by a tax credit, which is what we ought to be doing.”
“It’s kinda a win-win for everyone,” said Michael Iberis, executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley. “The donor wins, hungry people win because obviously there’s more food coming into this Food Bank.”
Each week, the Second Harvest Food Bank distributes food to 153 hunger relief organizations in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties, who then fill 15,000 requests for food assistance.
The food bank will distribute more this year than in 2014, when the organization handled a record 9.5 million pounds of food.
“Since 2007, when approximately 7,500 people were showing up at pantries, and now there is a little over 14,000,” Iberis said. “You can see the difference in the last eight years. It has slowly inched up every year, to the point where it’s [almost] doubled.”
One out of every six people in the Mahoning Valley faces hunger, according to Second Harvest, which is higher than the national average of 1 in 7. That one in six includes 950 children in the BackPack Program.
“When 53% of the kids who go to school in our three counties are eligible for free or reduced lunch, you know they’re coming from a family in poverty,” Iberis said.
Those families could be struggling once school lets out on Tuesday for the holiday break.
“It’s our only hope, between food pantries and other support that they might get, can feed their family during the weekend,” Iberis said.
The Food Bank runs a mobile pantry which provides food to people who don’t have access to a church pantry.
For every $1 given, the Food Bank can give out $15 worth of food, which is the equivalent of six meals.