Jun 22, 2022 - News

Feeling inflation's pinch, Ohio food banks plea for help

Illustration of a box that contains some food and dotted outlines of food that is missing.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Ohio's food banks are struggling to keep shelves stocked amid rising costs and supply-chain disruptions.

  • But those same issues are pushing even more people to turn to them for help.

Why it matters: More than 1.5 million Ohioans — one in eight of our neighbors — go hungry, according to Feeding America.

  • The Ohio Association of Foodbanks says that some banks have been forced into rationing.

State of play: The association's leaders are now urging lawmakers to spend federal pandemic relief funds or other cash reserves to address the critical need.

  • Ohio has nearly $2 billion in remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds, they note.
  • The state's rainy day fund has an unprecedented $7.4 billion, per a Pew States report.
  • Food banks are requesting $50 million immediately, plus $133 million in long-term relief to prepare for a recession.

How it works: Food banks distribute food to community pantries that they obtain from manufacturers, retailers and farmers at a lower cost.

  • They're especially important when local donations to pantries can't keep up with demand.

Zoom in: The Dublin Food Pantry is serving 2,200 individuals a month, three times their pre-pandemic output, executive director Denise "Dinky" Youngsteadt-Parrish tells Axios.

  • The nonprofit has outgrown Dublin Community Church, its home for 46 years, and will soon move to a larger location to meet demand.

What they're saying: Eggs, meat and milk are in short supply.

  • "If we don't have any milk today, some volunteers will run out and buy it" Youngsteadt-Parrish says. "They don't want to be the person who says, 'I'm sorry, we don't have this.'"

What's next: The food banks' proposal is "being reviewed," a spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine tells Axios, though state lawmakers are on summer recess until September.

  • The spokesperson also noted the rainy day fund is "meant to stabilize the state budget in downturns; therefore, it is not prudent to use that fund for other purposes."

What we're watching: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are currently boosted, but will return to normal once the federal pandemic relief emergency expires, possibly as early as mid-July.

How to help: A cash donation makes the most impact. Central Ohio's regional food bank is Mid-Ohio Food Collective.


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