Second Harvest ready to help shutdown victims

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JASON HAWK
EDITOR

A $50,000 grant will help Lorain County food pantries cope with the effects of the government shutdown.

The Community Foundation of Lorain County approved the grant award to Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio and announced it Jan. 24.

It came just before President Donald Trump backed down from the longest shutdown in history and offered a three-week startup of federal services.

What will happen in February is anyone’s guess as the president and congressional Democrats face off over the budget and Trump’s push for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the meantime, Lorain County residents are caught in the crossfire.

One out of eight residents here relies on help from the federal government to buy groceries for their families each month through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — better known as food stamps — noted Maria Grega, Community Foundation grants committee chair.

Second Harvest president and CEO Julie Chase-Morefield expressed thanks for the financial help.

“While the government shutdown continues, Second Harvest is committed to connecting those who are affected to available food and resources in North Central Ohio,” she said. “Our network of more than 100 partner charities stands ready to assist anyone during this time of uncertainty. We are here to help.”

Nationally there are some 800,000 furloughed federal workers; there are also about four million people who receive SNAP benefits.

SNAP double-loaded EBT cards for January to include February’s disbursement, said Susan Bartosch, director of external affairs for the food pantry.

That means demand right now for food has dipped but Bartosch said that’s not likely to last long. When the cards are empty, there will be a surge in requests for help.

“We don’t want people to panic on several levels. Number one, we’re ready,” she said.

Second Harvest was among the beneficiaries of U.S. Department of Agriculture funding in response to tariffs imposed at the end of last year.

To counter the effects of international trade disputes, the USDA purchased bulk food and milk from farmers, which the nonprofit has been distributing.

But that supply won’t last forever — and Bartosch worries that if the shutdown stretches through February and into March, those farmers that rely on government purchases and subsidies will be devastated.

“There are gaps already. Some farmers, we understand, aren’t even planting fields because they can’t count on the USDA coming in to purchase and so it doesn’t make sense for them to plant seeds because they have to buy all that up front,” she said.

Even if the government were to reopen today, the troubles would not go away, she said. It will take a long time to “get the whole machine up and running again” and many workers would be permanently affected by the financial strain of the situation while others would be loaded with debt.

If you need help, find a pantry or soup kitchen near you by visiting www.bit.ly/SHFBFind_Help.

Food pantry distributions are also listed on Facebook @Second.Harvest.Food.Bank.Ohio or Twitter @SecondHarvestOH.

Those without access to a computer or the Internet can call 440-960-2265.

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