Sunday, November 19, 2000

FreeStore braces for big holiday demand

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bracing for what they predict will be a record number of families in need this holiday season, officials at the FreeStore/FoodBank are stepping up their plea for donations.

        In 1999, the FSFB, Greater Cincinnati's largest free food distributor, served more than 19,000 people during the holidays.

        This year, that number is expected to jump by at least 6,000 — the most ever — officials said. Bob Rankin, FSFB client services director, said the food bank has seen significant increases this year in the number of needy people who walk through its doors on a daily basis. Based on these rising numbers, he said, the number of people who head to the FreeStore for help during the approaching holidays is expected to rise as well.

   Food donations, perishable and nonperishable, can be delivered to the FreeStore/FoodBank, 112 Liberty St., Over-the-Rhine, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.
   Special holiday hours:
   • 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 20-22.
   • 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 20-22.
   • 8 a.m. to noon Dec. 23.
   Donations will not be accepted on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
   Money is also accepted. A $25 donation will provide a meal for a family of five. Send donations to FreeStore/FoodBank Development Office, 1250 Tennessee Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229.
   Information: 482-3732.

        Much of this increase, Mr. Rankin added, can be attributed to the rise of “the working poor.”

        “There are a lot of families who are struggling to make ends meet, working in low-paying jobs to stay off of welfare. Whether you've got one child or several, it's really tough stretching a paycheck from a $7-an-hour job to pay for housing, utilities and food for your family,” he said.

        About 1 million low-income Ohioans face hunger, according to the year 2000 report of the Ohio Hunger Task Force, despite of the state's significant decline in food stamp participation.

        Volunteers at the food bank's two sites, 1250 Tennessee Ave., Bond Hill, and 112 W. Liberty St., Over-the-Rhine, over the weekend began preparing for the onslaught of patrons by putting together boxes and packing more than 100,000 pounds of donated food goods to be handed out during the week.

        To meet needs, FSFB spokeswoman Lisa Desatnik said, the agency hopes to distribute more than 400,000 pounds of food.

        “We need a variety of things, frozen poultry or chicken, canned foods, vegetables, boxed cereals, boxed desserts,” she said. “We want to provide them with staples and things that they would want to have for the holiday such as cranberries, turkey gravy.

        “Monetary donations are very important also. The FreeStore has buying power to buy a lot more food,” Ms. Desatnik said.

        For those who intend to use the FreeStore this holiday season, the process is simple: stop in and register your name and Social Security number.

        “Anybody who is in need can come in and get food. All the food is free of charge,” Ms. Desatnik said.

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