LIMA — A growing number of inflation-struck families are turning to food banks and charities to provide their children with toys, clothes and food for the holidays. Charities are now waiting to see whether inflation will also lead to lower donations.
The Salvation Army is already struggling to find alternative food suppliers after the West Ohio Food Bank noticed a drop in donations, a trend that will be made worse by increased demand and higher food costs if the nonprofit has to buy food elsewhere.
“We wanted to provide them with Christmas ham and some side dishes for Christmas,” said Angela Long, director of family services at The Salvation Army in Lima.
The Salvation Army has seen a steady increase in calls for help throughout the year and has registered more than 560 families for the holiday assistance scheme, at least 100 more than last year’s need — a figure that does not include family help applying for food alone, Long said .
But WOFB Chief Executive Tommie Harner said the WOFB has not seen the large-scale donations it typically makes this time of year, and that donations from retailers who expect surplus items like turkey and ham may It won’t come until after the holidays.
“We’re trying to reach out to some of our past donors to see if they have any of these items for the Salvation Army and our other food pantries to distribute over the holidays,” Harner said.
At least 70 shipments of food from the USDA to WOFB have been canceled since January, Harner said.
Meanwhile, WOFB has seen a 12 percent increase in visits to its pantry and distribution days since July, Harner said. Since then, an estimated 13,500 customers who are new to the food bank have visited a WOFB pantry or food distribution center, she said.
Likewise, many of the people who come to The Salvation Army for help are new clients, Long said.
“It’s mostly due to inflation,” Hana said. “We’re seeing a lot of working families who just need extra help because they’re trying to make ends meet — paying utility bills, paying for rising food prices when you go to the grocery store.”
The food bank also saw that many seniors living on fixed incomes could not afford the changes in fuel and grocery prices, so it reopened its Kibby Street pantry and temporarily halted distribution days in Lima to accommodate growing growth in other counties. An on-demand pantry.
But the food bank, which currently has less than 1 million pounds in stock in the 11 Midwestern Ohio counties it serves, has also scaled back the amount of food it serves to each family on each visit, from three to four weeks’ worth of food. Volumes are reduced to a one to two week supply, Hana said.
“We want to make sure everyone gets something, even if it’s only for a week or two,” she said.
Meanwhile, charities like Toys for Tots, which distributed more than 16,000 toys to children in the Lima area last year, are waiting to see if their toy and clothing donations will see a similar drop in donations as food banks have seen this year.
“Our sponsorships and donations come on a regular basis,” said Paul Downing, coordinator of Lima Toys for Tots, who works for the Salvation Army.
Previous recessions have produced surprisingly generous support, Downing said.
But the real test will come on December 12th, when volunteers will begin collecting the toys and games stored in collection boxes around town.
“People look around and say, ‘If I get hurt, I know there are people who got hurt more than me,’ says Downing. “So they go above and beyond and help other people. That’s the kind of community we have. “
How to help:
• Donations to the West Ohio Food Bank can be made online at https://www.westohiofoodbank.org/.
• Donations may be made to the Salvation Army’s Adopt a Stocking Fund at give.salvationarmy.org/stocking or online through Adopt A Stocking; c/o The Salvation Army; PO Box 234, Lima, OH 45801. All material donations for specific families should be delivered to The Salvation Army at 614 E. Market St., Lima and should be accompanied by a copy of the article or story appearing in The Lima News. Check out past stories at LimaOhio.com/tag/stocking.