Food Pantry Grants Make a Difference

posted 1/3/19 -- Working class men and women in Lorain County trying to stretch their food stamp benefits have a variety of sources to turn to for help. Annually since 2013, LCCAA partners with area food pantries to help fund their busiest months of the year: November and December.

Originally created in response to cuts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps), the grants have proven highly beneficial to all areas of Lorain County. For 2018, LCCAA provided grants to 35 partners including First United Methodist Church in South Amherst.

The LCCAA grant, along with others, has allowed the pantry to grow and expand to meet need, said Pantry Chair Nita Swiers.

Pantries like that at the Methodist Church see increased demand regularly, noted Susan Bartosch, Director of External Affairs for Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio. Second Harvest partners with area pantries and organizations to improve access to nutritious food. "Every time there is a cut, Second Harvest grows in terms of demand," she said. "SNAP benefits help to stabilize an unstable population. When cuts are made, the people who utilize those benefits need to supplement that somehow."

Bartosch also noted that people are arriving at food banks in their work clothes. They are gathering data that helps dispel myths about people living in poverty. For example, 38 percent of those helped by Second Harvest partners are children. Another 15 percent are senior citizens.

In Lorain County, food is a big need, said LCCAA Planning and Community Services Director Frank Prihoda. The countywide poverty rate is 12.2 percent but for the City of Lorain alone, the rate is 26.2 percent. Sixteen of LCCAA's food pantry partners are located in the City of Lorain.

"Our community needs assessment continues to show that people feel insecure about their ability to afford enough food for their families," Prihoda said. "They don't know when they are going to have to choose between paying rent and buying groceries. Many depend on local food pantries to fill those gaps. Anything we can do to stretch every dollar is important."

In 2018, LCCAA's 35 partners included churches, civic organizations, and the area agency on aging. The people they serve must be living at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Line. The funding can be used only for grocery items - both edible and non-edible - and is provided on a reimbursement basis. Annually, the partnership helps more than 31,000 people.

The food pantry at First United Methodist Church in South Amherst is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. For a complete list of pantries LCCAA has partnered with, click here.