YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Wednesday, the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley kicked off its Harvest for Hunger campaign.
All the food collected and money raised will go to families in need in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
Donations to Second Harvest Food Bank typically see a dip during the spring and summer months.
That’s where the Harvest for Hunger campaign comes in. The campaign is a food and fund drive that goes until the end of April to keep resources coming in and feed families.
Dozens of community leaders met at Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley on Wednesday for the 25th annual Harvest for Hunger kickoff.
In 2015, the campaign raised $194,000 and collected 35 thousand pounds of food.
While Executive Director Mike Iberis is happy about those numbers, he says it tells a sad story about the hunger issue in the valley.
“Everyone seems to know someone today who’s struggling,” Iberis said. “Struggling to be able to feed themselves, their families, maybe their elder parents or relatives, so they know there’s a need out there.”
More than 10 million pounds of food were given out last year, feeding about 15,000 people a week.
“We’re ceterainly pleased that we’ve been able to break a record by distributing that much food this year. Unfortunately, the sad part is that the need continues to grow,” Iberis said. “It’s probably doubled in the last nine years.”
Lillie Ekong helps run a food pantry on Glennwood Avenue in Youngstown. They give out food to families every fourth Saturday for most of the year.
She understands the struggle many families have.
“People have to make a choice of what they spend their money on, and food is always the last thing because they think they can stretch that further,” Ekong said.
They feed about 150 people a month. Of the 16 years she’s worked at the food pantry, she’s noticed how it really makes a difference.
“Some of them say, ‘I can pay my gas bill. I can put gas in my car to go to work because you’re helping me with the food,'” Ekong said.