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Food Bank Funding Remains Flat In New Ohio Budget, Despite Growing Demand

Ohio National Guard Specialist Parris Roberts picks up a box of food at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank food distribution, Thursday, June 11, 2020, in Cleveland.
Tony Dejak

Unemployment and financial problems from the pandemic have brought millions of people to food banks, which are serving 150,000 more Ohioans per month than they were a year ago. That’s putting a strain on the system that supports those people in need.

Ohio's food banks are getting flat funding of $24.5 million in the new two-year state budget, plus $7 million for food storage, transportation and distribution from the federal CARES Act.

While Ohio Association of Foodbanks executive director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt said she's appreciative, she also said it’s not enough.

“We have never seen anything like this straight out of the gate. I mean, we're 11 months into a pandemic and the economic recession, and the demand just continues to increase week over week and month over month," Hamler-Fugitt said.

She's requesting an increase in pass-through federal CARES Act funding to buy emergency foods, as well as personal hygiene and home cleaning products. And she's also hoping for the amount in the budget for food banks to nearly double, with money from Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF).

"The biggest challenge that we have right now is what's going to happen in the next 30-60 days to the individuals that are standing in our food line," Hamler-Fugitt said. "That's going to put more pressure on the demand for food assistance. So we need more, not less."

Benefits for jobless workers from the COVID relief package that passed in December will expire on March 14, and the federal eviction moratorium ends March 31.

The Ohio Association of Food Banks said more than one-fifth of the people they serve are over 60, and it's estimated that half are not eligible for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.