LIMA — An increasing number of families reeling from inflation are seeking help from food banks and charitable groups to provide their children with toys, clothes and food for the holidays. Charitable groups are now waiting to see whether inflation leads to fewer donations too.
Already, the Salvation Army is trying to find alternative food suppliers after the West Ohio Food Bank has seen a decline in donations, a trend made worse by increasing need and higher food costs if the non-profit agency has to purchase food elsewhere.
“We want to provide them with their Christmas ham and some fixings to go with it for Christmas day,” said Angela Long, family services director for the Lima Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army, which has received a steady increase in calls for assistance throughout the year, has registered more than 560 families for its holiday assistance programs, surpassing last year’s need by at least 100 families — a figure which excludes families who only applied for food assistance, Long said.
But the WOFB has not seen the large-scale donations it typically does this time of year, and anticipated donations from retailers with leftover items like turkey and ham may not come until after the holidays, CEO Tommie Harner said.
“We are trying to reach out to some of our donors we’ve had in the past just to see if they have any of those type of items for the Salvation Army and our other pantries to give out during the holidays,” Harner said.
At least 70 shipments of food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the WOFB have been canceled since January, Harner said.
Meanwhile, Harner said the WOFB has seen a 12% increase in visits to its pantries and distribution days since July. An estimated 13,500 clients who visited one of the WOFB’s pantries or food distributions since that time were new to the food bank, she said.
Likewise, many of those seeking assistance from the Salvation Army are new clients, Long said.
“It’s mainly due to inflation,” Harner said. “We’re seeing many working families that just need an extra hand up because they’re trying to make ends meet—paying their utility bills, the increased price of food when you go into the grocery store.”
The food bank, which is also seeing a lot of seniors on fixed incomes who can’t afford the change in fuel and grocery prices, reopened its Kibby Street pantry and temporarily halted its distribution days in Lima to accommodate growing need in other counties with fewer food pantries.
But the food bank, which currently has less than one million pounds of inventory available for the 11 West Central Ohio counties it serves, has also scaled back the amount of food it provides each family per visit from three to four weeks’ worth of food down to one or two weeks’ worth of supplies, Harner said.
“We want to make sure that everybody is getting something, even if it’s only going to last one or two weeks,” she said.
Meanwhile, charitable campaigns like Toys for Tots, which distributed more than 16,000 toys to children in the Lima area last year, are waiting to see whether their toy and clothing drives suffer similar declines in donations as food banks have experienced this year.
“Our sponsorships and donations are coming in on a regular basis,” said Paul Downing, the Lima Toys for Tots coordinator, who works for the Salvation Army.
Previous economic downturns have yielded surprisingly generous support, Downing said.
But the real test will come on Dec. 12 when volunteers start collecting toys and games deposited in collection bins across town.
“People look around and say, ‘If I’m hurting, I know there are people hurting a lot more than I am,” Downing said. “So they go above and beyond to help others. That’s the kind of community that we have.”
How to help:
• Donations to the West Ohio Food Bank may be made online at https://www.westohiofoodbank.org/.
• Monetary donations for the Salvation Army’s Adopt a Stocking fund may be made online at give.salvationarmy.org/stocking or via Adopt A Stocking; c/o The Salvation Army; P.O. Box 234, Lima, OH 45801. All material donations for a specific family should be dropped off at the Salvation Army, 614 E. Market St., Lima, and should include a copy of the article or the date the story appeared in The Lima News. See past stories at LimaOhio.com/tag/stocking.