Every year, between 3 billion and 6 billion pounds of food remains unharvested in the field or unsold in stores.
“To put that in perspective,” said Matt Habash, president and CEO of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, “all 204 food banks that are part of Feeding America (a national network of food banks) ... distributed about 3.3 billion pounds.”
The Mid-Ohio Foodbank, located at 3960 Brookham Drive in Grove City, serves 20 counties, providing 100,000 meals every day through its 550 partner agencies and pantries. With the winter holiday season approaching and Ohio past its harvest season, fresh produce might not be expected to be common donations to the foodbank, but Habash said fresh food is the future of foodbanking, and in the coming winter months, the foodbank is looking to continue providing fresh food.
“Even in this drought year around the country, there’s a lot of surplus in the fields,” Habash said, in an early November interview. “More than half of the food we give out is fresh. ... To be able to put fresh fruits and vegetables in people’s lives is a big win all the way around.”
In September, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank launched its Harvest Campaign, a fundraising project with a goal of raising $1 million to be used to purchase produce. As of the first week of November, the foodbank had raised about $400,000, Habash said.
“The food’s there,” he added. “We just have to figure out how to get it.”
Farmers and other producers donate their surplus, Habash said, but the foodbank does compensate them for the effort of picking, packing and shipping it. In all, it costs the foodbank about 18 cents per pound to distribute food through its network.
“That’s an extremely efficient way,” Habash said. “You could not got to the grocery store to do that.”
The foodbank is able to stretch its dollars further than individuals, Habash said they estimate for every dollar donated, they’re able to get $8 worth of food.
“It’s a rare case when you can beat our prices,” he said. “We’re able to pick and choose the opportunities that come along. We’re extremely efficient.”
However, Habash said people should contribute in whatever ways they are comfortable – whether donating money directly or participating in food drive. This time of year, many groups in the area are collecting to donate to the foodbank, and people are encouraged to take part.
The foodbank also collects money and turkeys every year during its Turkey Hunt Drive to provide families with a Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey. Every $13.80 donated will see a 12-pound turkey given to a local family.
While the holidays tend to be the time when many people decide to get involved, Habash said there are opportunities year-round. The needs of the hungry is constant, and in the last few years, demand has grown, he added.
“There’s not going to be any donation that’s too small,” Habash said. “Because everybody can do a little, we can do a lot.”
More information about the Mid-Ohio Foodbank is available on its website, midohiofoodbank.org.