The face of hunger is changing as summer approaches

Amanda Garrett

Area food banks serve a wide variety of needs

Every other Saturday, 200 to 300 people line up at Roger Stevens’ warehouse on Diamond Street in Ravenna.

They are coming to receive the free milk, meats and other food products that Stevens, senior pastor of City of Refuge Church of God, gives out as part of the ministry.

“We have such a mixture of people that come to the food bank,” Stevens said. “We see a lot of seniors, but we also have a lot of singles. I would say the biggest number of people we get are folks with kids.”

The large numbers of people Stevens’ and his church help out represent a growing trend in Ohio that is changing the face of hunger in the region. Local food banks are gearing up for the summer when an increasing number of people use food banks, said Kristin Warzocha, development director for the Cleveland Foodbank.

“One of our busiest times of the year is during the summertime,” she said. “Children are out of school, and they don’t have access to school lunch programs.”

There are an estimated 15 million working poor in the United States, said Ross Fraser, media relations manager at America’s Second Harvest, a nationwide hunger network.

“The working poor have to decide whether to pay the rent, get enough gas in their cars to go to work or put food on the table,” he said.

Increasingly, the price of healthy foods are out of the price range of lower-income families, Fraser said.

“The reason there is a problem with obesity is because the working poor don’t have good nutrition,” he said. “The best quality foods like lean slices of meat, fruits and vegetables are also the most expensive foods. It’s easier for people to eat fattening fast-food meals that cost less.”

Both the Akron-Canton and the Cleveland food banks work with America’s Second Harvest.

The Akron-Canton and Cleveland food banks serve as warehouses where food is collected, packaged and distributed to food banks in the region.

The food banks receive donations from the government and the public. They also receive surplus and damaged items from retailers.

“One of our big priorities is providing fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and other high-protein foods,” Warzocha said. “One of our best partners in the region is Stouffer’s. They provide us with a lot of surplus frozen meals.”

After the food has been processed, it is given to more than 350 local food banks, including the City of Refuge.

Stevens said as long as people need food, he and his congregation will be there to help them.

“I have the ministry because the Bible says it’s important to feed and clothe the poor,” he said. “Also, I like giving. It gives me real joy helping other people out.”

Contact news correspondent Amanda Garrett at [email protected].