Food pantries rush to replace lost donations
A recent donation of doughnuts and snack cakes waits Oct. 3 at the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center. The recent donation of kitchen equipment from Nationwide Children’s Hospital will help the center distribute food – especially fresh produce – more effectively. Buy This Photo
Several local food pantries are scrambling to find additional funds to put together gift baskets for the holiday season.
Mid-Ohio Foodbank officials said a $300,000 grant from AEP Ohio has been exhausted this year, meaning the local agency is working hard to fill the gap.
In the meantime, the food bank also has put out a call to the community to help with donations.
"The need has been high the last couple years," said Colin Baumgartner, spokesman for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
"That's not going away," Baumgartner said. "We really do need the community's response and we've needed that the last couple years."
Bill Owens, executive director of the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center, said the loss of funds is going to hurt.
The center puts together about 300 gift baskets, using donations from the food bank and University Sertoma Club.
Still, he's confident the center will provide for its clients.
"I know we're going to serve the people we need to serve during holiday season," he said.
Michael Cunningham, chairman of the food-basket program for Westland Ecumenical Food Pantry, said when he heard the news about the loss of resources, he immediately hit the streets, asking regular donors and local businesses for additional assistance.
"I think it will happen," Cunningham said.
He said the West Side food pantry assembles 165 to 190 baskets a year, with 98 percent of their contents coming from Mid-Ohio Foodbank donations.
Mid-Ohio still is allowing local pantries to purchase food at the regularly discounted rate, which is a big help, Cunningham said.
Pablo Vegas, president and CEO of AEP Ohio, in a prepared statement, said the utility company has provided support to the food bank through Partnership with Ohio, a program that has concluded.
"However, AEP continues to significantly support the Mid-Ohio Foodbank through other means such as Operation Feed and the AEP Foundation," Vegas said.
"Between 2008 and 2011, AEP Ohio and American Electric Power donated approximately $2.4 million through the Partnership with Ohio and the AEP Foundation."
Last year, the food bank's distribution went to more than 300 pantries, which then distributed the baskets in their service areas, Baumgartner said.
It's estimated that 62,000 families benefited from the holiday distribution, he said.
Baumgartner said agency officials knew from the outset they might not continue to receive the AEP funding.
"While it accounted for less than 1 percent of our total distribution last year, both the (food bank) and our partner pantries see a real value in providing this extra holiday distribution and we hope to find the support to continue this effort in 2012," he said.
But the deadline is fast approaching, he said.
"In past years, we've tried to give our partner agencies an idea of what to expect by the end of October," Baumgartner said.