LORAIN — Major Bob Sears of the Elyria Salvation Army may have expressed the problem of hunger best during Tuesday’s kick-off of Second Harvest Food Bank’s annual “Harvest for Hunger” fundraising campaign.
“This winter will eventually let go, but hunger will not go away,” Sears told 50-plus food bank volunteers and community members. They gathered to hear honorary chairman Dr. Donald Sheldon announce the 2014 goal of raising enough money to generate more than 1 million meals for the adults and children served by the food bank in its four-county service area.
“We’re talking about people who really don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Sheldon, president of University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center.
Julie Chase-Morefield, executive director of Second Harvest, graciously thanked those offering their assistance.
“The happiest people are those who help others, and I see a lot of happy people here,” she said.
The demand for food remains high, officials said, with more than 50,000 people helped in Lorain County last year. Of that number, 43 percent were children, while 11 percent were senior citizens.
Sheldon urged those present to work to raise at least $200,000 to provide 1.2 million meals — which would be a 20 percent increase over the 1 million meals provided in 2013 by the 110-member Second Harvest network of food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters and after-school programs.
Running from March 1 to April 14, at least half of the $200,000 goal will be generated via the food bank’s “Check Out Hunger” effort that asks shoppers at area Giant Eagle and Heinen’s Fine Foods supermarkets to donate $1, $5 or $10.
It is estimated that every $1 donated can provide about six meals.
The “Harvest for Hunger” campaign occurs at this time of year to bolster giving following the holiday season that typically sees more generosity, Chase-Morefield said.
Now in its 23rd year, “Harvest for Hunger” impacts thousands of people in a 21-county area of northern Ohio stretching from Crawford County to Mahoning County to the east. Food banks in Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown also take part in the annual campaign. Second Harvest serves Lorain, Erie, Huron and Crawford counties.
Sears spoke of people lining up in 5-degree temperatures at 8:30 a.m. waiting for bags of groceries from the Salvation Army, which handed out nearly 10,000 bags of food in 2013 to more than 2,000 families.
The number of hungry people in the region has grown due in part to the recently enacted 5 percent cut in federal food stamps, Sears said.
“It’s having a real impact,” he said.
William Hurley, president of Lorain’s We Care We Share Ministries Inc., said the food pantry could not function without the food bank’s backing. Operating from the former El Centro building on East 31st Street, the faith-based ministry has supplied some 900,000 pounds of food to 75,000 people in the last three years.
“We have no choice but to do what we do,” Hurley said. “Everybody’s support is needed to combat this.”
To learn more, call Second Harvest at (440) 960-2265 or visit www.secondharvestfoodbank.org.