Ohio food banks see increasing demand

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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio food banks are distributing more these days than during the height of the recession a few years ago because of a difficult jobs climate and higher costs for daily necessities, they report.

The banks distributed 45 percent more food and supplies in fiscal year 2012 than they did in 2009, at the height of the recession, the Ohio Association of Foodbanks said.

The 164 million pounds of food distributed to pantries and other charities by the food banks in the past year was an alarming increase, officials said. That matches the trend of greater "food insecurity" in Ohio, which is also growing throughout the country, they said.

From 2009-2011, an average of 15.5 percent of Ohio households were "food insecure," which means they did not have enough access to food at some point during the year. That was an increase of 6.4 percentage points from 1999-2001.

"We're limited," Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, told the Dayton Daily News for a story published Friday. "The pounds (distributed) are up, and the number of people is up, as well. About half of the folks we serve are hitting emergencies that were unexpected, and they're taking money out of their food budgets to serve other needs."

The amount of food distributed by Ohio's food banks has increased steadily in recent fiscal years -- from 113 million pounds in 2009 to 141 million in 2010, 150 million in 2011, and 164 million 2012.

Michelle Riley, executive director of The Foodbank, which serves three Dayton-area counties, said that while economic indicators show that more people are working, there are still many with jobs whose lower wages or other obligations make food charity a necessity.

Riley noted that the average monthly participation in the food stamp program in Ohio has increased from nearly 1.1 million in 2007 to nearly 1.8 million in 2011.

The need increases during the holidays in November and December.

"It's tougher this time of year, even emotionally," said Keith Williamson, regional director for Catholic Charities Southwest Ohio and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan counties.

"Holidays are supposed to be a time to think about celebration," he said, "not think about, 'Boy, I can't give a gift because I need to find food for the table.' That's an emotional issue."

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Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com