U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) grabbed jugs of juice Friday, helping to pack relief boxes for hungry Lorain County senior citizens.
He joined officials such as mayors Dave Leshinski of South Amherst, John Hunter of Sheffield, and Bryan Jensen of Avon. Together they filled boxes with peanut butter, corn, beans, and bran flakes at Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio on Baumhart Road.
Second Harvest opened its new facility there a year ago, putting food on tables in four counties.
Executive director Julie Chase-Morefield said her nonprofit helps feed about 50,000 hungry people each month, including helping pantries in Amherst. She credited a bipartisan effort at the state level to fund food purchases, especially with fresh produce.
The food boxes packed by officials go to seniors having trouble making ends meet, some who earn just enough money that they don’t qualify for food stamps.
The number of local seniors who are hungry and need help has ticked higher and higher in the past three years, said Chase-Morefield.
On the other end of the age spectrum are too many children who must rely on free school breakfasts and lunches to stave off hunger 180 days a year, said Brown.
He said legislators all too often “don’t care about human needs” and worries how funding for Second Harvest and other food banks will fare under the newly-elected Congress and President-elect Donald Trump.
Republicans who now control the White House, House of Representatives, and Senate campaigned on tax breaks for the wealthy while so many others are uncertain about how they’ll afford their next meal, said Brown.
“So many people in this country are working harder and harder and not getting paid as much as they were,” he said. “Congress won’t increase the minimum wage. We’re afraid they’re going to try to take away the overtime of 130,000 Ohioans and that’s going to make it even more important what the North Central Ohio food bank does.”
Brown also voiced concerns for veterans.
He’s sat on the Veterans Committee for nearly 10 years and said good work has been done fighting homelessness among former servicemen and women — but there are still too many veterans battling daily hunger.
“We should serve better those who serve us,” he said.
President George W. Bush did not champion increases for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs when he launched the War on Terror, and the VA has since been overwhelmed by claims related to PTSD and traumatic brain injury from veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Congress has not been generous enough with helping veterans and I don’t understand it,” Brown said. “A lot of people in Congress would rather give tax cuts to rich people. They’ve may have put more in defense but continue to shortchange community-based clinics and hospitals like Wade Park and veterans benefits generally. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Hunger in Lorain County is directly tied to what jobs are available. Brown said he’ll work with Trump’s administration on foreign trade policies that could potentially benefit Ohio workers.
He’s already offered help renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and assist the Trump White House in pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
He also wants to be part of an across-the-aisle effort to stamp out unfair trade practices in the steel industry, especially by China, South Korea, and Turkey.
“I will work with this administration when they’re right,” Brown said, though willingness to work with Trump’s camp only extends so far. “I will loudly and aggressively oppose them when they put as their top political advisor in the White House an outright anti-Semite and bigot and white supremacist.”
That comment refers to Steve Bannon, chief strategist of the Trump campaign, who has been named the president-elect’s top counselor.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) helps pack boxes of food for senior citizens at Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio on Baumhart Road.