PDT Staff Writer
Feeding America, the nations leading domestic hunger-relief charity, released figures this week showing that in 2011 Scioto County was $5,614,240 short of ending local hunger.
“The figure ($5,614,240) is from 2011, the research was done in late 2012 and the figure represents additional money required to meet the food needs (of Scioto County) in 2011,” said Lt. Mark Ferreira with the Salvation Army Portsmouth Corps.
Ferreira said the 2011 data is the most recent available from Feeding America.
When asked what this number means Ferreira said, “$5.6 million sounds like a huge number. On one end it tells us the scope of the problem that we have. In our county we’re looking at about 15,000 people who are food insecure, which is nearly 19 percent of the population or one in five people.”
He said being food insecure does not mean 15,000 people are going around hungry.
“It means one in five people are close to hungry or not able to adequately get proper nutrition. On the flip side of the issue, it seems like a large problem. On the grand scale of things $5.6 million in food, over the course of the year in our county is actually not an astronomical figure,” Ferreira said. “This shows that hunger is something that’s real and something that we can actively fight, if we continue to peruse resources to do it.”
Ferreira said said the data shows that Scioto County has a worse problem in compared to the rest of the state.
“Our numbers are just a little bit worse than the rest of the state, it shows there is still poverty in our county and that its a real issue,” Ferreira said. “What I can say from experience is that there are a lot of good things happening to help provide food.”
He said there is a number of food pantries throughout Scioto County that are working on this issue virtually everyday.
“On the other end of that the obstacles we face have a lot to do with access and availability of the pantries. There is a limited number of places where people can access free all the time,” Ferreira said. “A lot of our pantries have very limited service. On a day-to-day basis the Salvation Army is the only place around that anybody can get and free meal no questions asked, five days a week.”
Ferreira said the the $5.6 million may not have changed very much over the years. Recent data released from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that one in six Ohioans were living in poverty in 2012.
Page Robbins, director of the Scioto County Department of Job and Family Services, said the number of people receiving food assistance in Scioto County stands at about 20,000.
“That’s 25 percent of our population on food assistance,” Robbins said.
As a part of the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund, the Steven’s Power Pack Club was started. One of the goals of the program is to provide weekend meals to students in area schools that may not otherwise have meals.
According to it website (www.stevenshopefund.org), the Power Pack program, “now serves almost 500 hungry children every weekend in nine different school districts including Portsmouth Elementary, East Portsmouth Elementary, New Boston Oak Intermediate, New Boston Stanton Primary, Northwest Elementary, West Elementary, Valley Elementary, Green Elementary, Clay Elementary, Bloom-Vernon Elementary, and Minford Elementary.”
Mark Hunter, adminstrator of the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund said one in five children are food insecure.
“In Ohio I think that number has fallen to one in four children. In Scioto County it’s almost one in three children who are food insecure,” Hunter said.
According to the Hope Fund website, food insecure “is when one does not know where their next meal is coming from. This means that the children in our local schools are among the most vulnerable to suffer from the problems associated with hunger in the home. The sad reality is that many of these children are going without proper nutrition or, in some cases, with no food at all over the weekend, their only meals being provided at breakfast or lunch through the school system.”
Hunter said the number of children who are food insecure has held for a while.
“I do not think they are getting better (the number of children who are food insecure) and I don’t think they are getting any worse,” Hunter said. “When I talk to the schools, it’s like they need more and of course we have budget constraints like everyone else. It always makes me feel inadequate.”
Hunter said he and others are working on plans to further the reach of the Power Pack program in the future.
A report released by the United States Department of Agriculture on household food security in 2012 reads, “an estimated 14.5 percent of American Households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2012, meaning they lacked access to the enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.”
Ferreira said that ending hunger in Scioto County is within reach.
“Hunger is something that we could actually put a stop to and I think we are getting closer to that,” he said. “You see pantries working harder, the level of support that we receive at the Salvation Army from the community has certainly increased every year.”
He added also, “I think that we are making very positive progress on this issue. As the economy continues to improve and as we bring new jobs to the area and help to alleviate poverty, which is at the root of this problem. We are making an impact on this issue and it’s not inconceivable that this is something that we can see ended. We can end hunger in our country and we can end hunger in Scioto County.”
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.