Thursday, November 30, 2000

Free Store nearing record

More needy people than ever served

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        One week after Thanksgiving, the FreeStore/FoodBank in Bond Hill is well on its way to serving more needy people than it ever has during the holidays.

        Last week, the agency fed more than 13,200 people from more than 5,100 households — up 58.5 percent from the same time last year. The agency expects this season to exceed last year's demand.

        While the holidays are traditionally the agency's busiest times, non-holiday patronage has been high throughout the year.

        “We've had an overall increase of 40 percent for services,” said agency spokeswoman Jan Seidel. “As of about two months ago, we were servicing about 100 people a day. Suddenly that number jumped to 140 a day.”

        A 2000 report from the Ohio Hunger Task Force cites an increase in the state's working poor as the reason for the gains in needy people.

        The report states that despite well-intentioned initiatives designed to get people off welfare and into work, the jobs are low-paying and do little to help former welfare recipients rise above poverty levels.

        A 1999 survey conducted by Ohio's emergency food providers found that the average annual income of their clients is about $6,200. Visits to emergency pantries averaged five a year.

        Locally, the FreeStore/FoodBank has received much-needed donations from private corporations such as Kroger Co., which earlier this month contributed an 18-wheel, semi-tractor trailer filled with canned and packaged goods.

        Nevertheless, the agency is in need of food, especially perishables such as meat, bread and fresh vegetables.

        During the 1999 holidays, officials estimated they served 19,000 individuals from 7,000 families. Because resources ran low, the agency had to dip into its operating budget to offset the purchase of additional food stuffs.

        The agency also distributes food to more than 500 non-profit agencies throughout the city that in turn dole the food out to needy people at the neighborhood level.

        To donate, call 482-3732.


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