Drought impacts Ohio foodbanks

Most news reported on the impact of this summer’s drought have involved farmers, yields and food prices but little has been reported about the impact on foodbanks that are helping feed the hungry.

At a time when foodbanks desperately need more food to feed more people who are visiting more frequently, the drought is causing extreme concern as to how they will feed people who come to them for help.

“It’s frightening,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of Ohio Association of Foodbanks (OAF). “We have never had a year like what we are experiencing now.”

Food prices and supplies

Hamler-Fugitt said people still need to pay rent, utility bills, car payments and put gas in their cars but food budgets are what suffers, and now their food budget will not go as far.

“Despite what appears to be an improving employment rate, that is not translating to individuals that are standing in our food lines,” she said. “We have seen seen reports that food prices could rise 15-20 percent, which means low income families will be at food pantries more frequently because their income is not going as far.”

The drought is not only causing a rise in food prices but also a concern about food supplies.

Most people would be surprised to know that there are not large warehouses full of surplus food, and that even processed food is produced through point-in-time manufacturing, and Hamler-Fugitt says that we live three days, or nine meals, from chaos.

“We need to ensure that folks understand that we are here and need food 365 days a year,” she said. “We are working with Ohio farmers and growers as they recover, but we are also going to have to go out and purchase shelf stable food, and shelf stable food is very very expensive for our system.”

Drop in ag clearance product

Due to the drought, OAF has seen a 149 percent drop this year in the amount of product acquired through the Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program (OACP), from 13.7 million pounds last year at this time to 5.5 million in the same time period this year.

The Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program is a partnership in which OAF works with agricultural partners to purchase the surplus commodity products and unmarketable fruits and vegetables, preventing unnecessary waste and reducing losses in the agricultural industry.

OAF feeds millions of hungry Ohioans through the Agricultural Clearance Program, which accounts for 35 percent of all food distributed by OAF.

“Our distribution systems have really been flipped on their heads because we don’t have the product this year,” she said. “We work with about 100 farmers, growers and commodity producers (in OACP) and some have had to just close up shop for the year.”

Backyard gardeners and anyone with a surplus that would like to donate to a foodbank or food pantry can be connected through OAF.


Visit Ohio Association of Foodbank’s website, Facebook Page and on Twitter

Visit Ohio Farm Bureau’s 2012 Drought Resource page 

Callie Wells 

Callie Wells is the director of digital communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.

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