Many small hands made light work Monday, sorting through boxes of crackers, fruit cups, cereal, and stuffing.
About 30 members of the Amherst Junior High student council gave their time at the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio.
“I like helping other people,” said 12-year-old Morgan Hunt. “People are dying of hunger and we’re surrounded by food. So we’re going to send some to them.”
Kids helped check expiration dates on donated food, then sort the oatmeal, toothpaste, and canned vegetables for delivery to 115 assistance agencies in Lorain, Erie, Huron, and Crawford counties.
The work took place at Second Harvest’s new headquarters on Baumhart Road. It opened in June and so far the volume of food and hygienic goods received has jumped by 25 percent, said spokeswoman Susan Bartosch.
“We needed the space,” she said, showing off a warehouse floor with shelves stacked to the ceiling with food-laden pallets. “At our old location, we actually had to turn food away because we didn’t have enough room.”
The need in Northern Ohio is just as great as ever.
While hunger has been somewhat blunted in the past year in other parts of Ohio, the Elyria-Cleveland area has seen no improvement, Bartosch said. The poverty rate here edged upward to 15.9 percent last year.
Ohio’s poverty rate dropped from 16 percent in 2013 to 15.8 percent in 2014, which isn’t a huge change.
It means the state remains set at 2010 poverty levels, which are much higher than both the 13.1 percent benchmark measured in 2007 and the 14.8 percent rate nationwide.
A full third of Ohioans live in households at or below 200 percent of the poverty level, which is Second Harvest’s emergency food eligibility threshold.
Those who typically use Second Harvest’s services here are the working poor.
Bartosch said she sees new families every week. They are people struggling with lost jobs, medical bills, and car break-downs.
“They are often embarrassed, mortified to need help,” she said. “They shouldn’t be.”
If you need assistance, visit www.secondharvestfoodbank.org/find-help to learn what partner agencies are available.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Aubrey Pluta, Jordan Harcula, and Anna Dudziak are among the Amherst Junior High School student council members who volunteered Monday at the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio.