Springfield-based food bank to re-examine distribution model

6:00 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 Community News
Ellie Gehret, a freshman at Tecumseh High School, passes out food from the Second Harvest Food Bank’s Mobile Food Pantry at New Carlisle Elementary School Monday. Bill Lackey/Staff

A local food bank that serves more than 30,000 people annually in three local counties is re-examining its model for distributing food to local food pantries, according to its parent organization.

Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio — which operates Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties — is working with Feeding America, a national food bank network, to “explore better options for serving the people of those counties,” said Kelly Anchrum, director of marketing and communications.

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More than 32,000 food insecure people live in the three-county region served by Second Harvest. The food insecurity rate in the food bank’s area is 14.7 percent.

More than 4.3 million pounds of food have been distributed so far this year, according to food bank data. That equals about 3.6 million meals going to about 600 new families each month in the three-county region.

Catholic Charities opened Second Harvest Food Bank to reduce hunger in the three-county region in 1981, Anchrum said. In recent years, fewer partner agencies are ordering less food from the food bank, which has led to more mobile pantry events, she said. The organization served about 2.1 million meals through both its Springfield food pantry and mobile pantry events, Anchrum said.

“We have been in talks with Feeding America to look at the best models of how we can make that work efficiently and effectively long-term,” she said.

MORE: Census: Fewer Clark County residents living in poverty

All the services currently in place will remain, including distribution to pantries, Catholic Charities CEO Ted Bergh said.

“Second Harvest isn’t going anywhere,” Anchrum said.

Any operational changes must be approved by Feeding America and other food banks in the state, Anchrum said. It’s too early to discuss specifics of any new model, she said.

“Catholic Charities will remain in Springfield with Second Harvest, but how we operate will be determined by the model that’s approved,” she said. “At the end of the day, we want to have a model that will work for the people (of the region), a way that we’re going to be able to serve more pantries, more people and particularly reach those people in the food deserts.”

The Ohio Association of Food Banks will work with members to make sure agencies and hungry clients in the region continue to receive state and federally funded food, its Executive Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt said.

MORE: Food insecurity hurts Clark County health

The 12 food banks in Ohio serve all 88 counties through contracts with Feeding America, as well as the state association and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, she said. The food banks receive both charitable contributions from individuals and businesses, as well as commodities through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Local agencies and residents in need of hunger relief will have access to food, she said.

“Through the years, these service territories have been assigned to different food banks,” Hamler-Fugitt said. “I can give you the utmost assurance there will not be a disruption in distribution as they work through the process.”

The food insecurity rate in Clark County was about 15.8 percent in 2015, the latest year the data’s available, according to the Map the Meal Gap project completed annually by Feeding America. That means more than 21,000 people here didn’t get the food they need.

More than $10.5 million would be needed to fully meet the need for food in Clark County, the report says. The food insecurity rate in Clark County was about 16.3 percent in 2014.

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