By Abigail Cloutier
Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley reached a record of food distribution in the Youngstown area with 11.5 million pounds of food distributed to over 100 member agencies in 2019, according to Becky Page.
Page, director of development at Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, said the organization received an enormous amount of food from the United States Department of Agriculture in 2019.
“[Food] is purchased by the USDA and is divided up between 200 food banks across the country that have a USDA contract,” she said.
The food bank distributes 45,000 pounds of food daily and offers delivery options to organizations that cannot facilitate pickup.
Although Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley does not directly distribute food to those in need, it helps operate mobile and school pantry programs.
Page said mobile pantries transport food to residents in rural areas of the community that do not have direct access to the food bank.
“We operate mobile pantry programs, which help serve people in the more rural areas that don’t have transportation to get to an agency,” she said. “We are up to 41 school pantry programs … in 20 school districts.”
The food bank also distributes soap, detergent and sanitary products and offers food education resources to its member organizations.
Kim Brock, agency relations and programs manager at Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, said some people want to learn more about using fresh produce daily.
“We worked together in-house to come up with some really simple things. … This is how you boil a potato, bake a potato and make mashed potatoes,” she said. “It’s just strengthening that understanding of what is available and how to use it.”
According to Brock, the organization is looking to expand its school programs.
“I see probably our greatest area of expansion right now is probably in our school program,” she said. “It’s just a fantastic way for students that may otherwise kind of fall through the cracks to get the assistance that they need.”
The food bank is always looking to add to its list of 160 member agencies, according to Brock.
“We want to make sure that our agencies are strong enough so that we can be sure that the food is going to be stored and distributed in a way that’s going to maintain the integrity of the food,” she said.
Food distribution is provided for Columbiana, Trumbull and Mahoning counties. In Youngstown, the Boys and Girls Club, the Beatitude House and St. John’s Episcopal Church receive food distribution.
Dustin West, site administrator at the Beatitude House, said it receives food from Second Harvest Food Bank on a weekly basis.
“We offer this so no one really goes hungry. I know people fall on hard times and need help, so we’re here to make sure that people at least have something to eat,” he said.
In 2018, Youngstown State University’s Poverty Awareness in Youngstown Organization donated nearly 4,000 pounds of food to Second Harvest Food Bank, and members of the organization volunteer at the food bank regularly.
Currently, the food bank is not looking to expand its donation range beyond 11.5 million pounds, and its increased distribution was due to national tariff regulations allowing food to be distributed.