When Rains Didn’t Come

Most agreed that it was one of the worst droughts in the past century.

Perhaps nobody had the potential to be impacted as much as those who rely on groups like the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

Not only was the association concerned about the impact that higher FOOD PRICES have on low-income Ohioans, food supplies were also strained.

The association saw a significant a drop in the amount of product acquired through the Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program, which sources surplus commodity products and unmarketable fruits and vegetables. At one point this year, DONATIONS were down from 13.7 million pounds of food last year to 5.5 million pounds.

“Our DISTRIBUTION SYSTEMS have really been flipped on their heads because we don’t have the product this year,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, the association’s executive director. “We work with about 100 farmers, growers and commodity producers and some have had to just close up shop for the year.”

Hamler-Fugitt said her organization had never experienced a year like 2012.

“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.”

The average American spends about 10 percent of their income on food.  But for people with low-incomes, food costs can represent a much larger percentage of their household budget.

To learn how to support the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, visit Ohio Association of Foodbanks’ website.

Hamler-Fugitt notes that despite popular conceptions, there are no large warehouses with surplus food and, in a shortage, supplies would be strained in just three days.

About ¾ of the federal farm bill is used to support food and nutrition programs, providing an important safety net for hungry Americans.

Other ways the drought impacted our food supply

CORN: Although yields were down, plant varieties that have been bred to tolerate moisture stress helped prevent even more significant losses. Nonetheless, by August the drought had pushed corn prices 60 percent higher.

LIVESTOCK: Rising feed costs, a shortage of hay and dry pastures put pressure on some farmers to send animals to market rather than continue to feed them. Improvements in pasture management and animal husbandry helped farmers make the most of the feed they had.

FRUITS, VEGETABLES AND SPECIALTY CROPS: From tomatoes to Christmas trees, virtually every farm product in Ohio was subjected to the drought. Fortunately, Ohio has abundant water resources, allowing some farmers to invest in irrigation systems to protect high value crops.

FOOD PRICES: The costs of foods that contain grains will most likely rise in the short term—some are saying by about 3 to 5 percent depending on the product. A rise in meat prices as a result of the drought is expected in the coming months when the reduction in livestock numbers is fully realized. However, despite some rumors in the media, there will be no bacon shortage.