The United Way of Lake County has distributed $87,000 worth of groceries to more than 30 Lake County food depots as efforts intensify to meet the growing needs of the community.
Although some giveaways took place last month, the main part of the action took place on June 23.
Clients and employees from Lake County Council on Developmental Disabilities / Deepwood were on site to voluntarily load food into various pantry vehicles.
The UWLC holds meetings with pantries several times a year to determine the most needed items.
Commonly requested items include apple juice, fruit smoothie, cereal, oatmeal, pancake mix, syrup, peanut butter and jelly, soup, mac and cheese, macaroni, tuna, canned chicken, boxed mashed potatoes, and bottled water.
Donations began during the 30th annual Food Drive and nonprofit fundraiser held each spring.
The two largest donors to date are Public School Mentorwhose students and administration raised and donated over $23,000 worth of food, and Construction of the Marus brotherswho raised and donated over $7,000 worth of groceries.
In addition to food collected by UWLC, the organization has raised over $60,000 in cash from donors, including $25,000 donated Byers Products Co. in Mentor.
The funds will be used to help replenish food pantry shelves later in the year, officials noted.
“We are grateful for the generosity of our donors and volunteers who made this day possible,” said Tami Lewis, director of marketing and communications at UWLC. “The collective impact we’ve been able to make will help families in need have food on the table and our community’s children stay up hungry.”
Pastor Larry Bogenrief of Willow Price Church in Willowwick praised UWLC for helping to meet his pantry needs, adding that his food bank is experiencing a growing sense of urgency, especially among seniors living on a fixed income and struggling with rising costs.
What’s more, Bogenrief’s number of repeat customers has increased from less than 100 repeat customers in December to 185 this month, and he expects the rapid growth to continue.
“In the last 15 years that I have been running our food bank, I have never seen anything like the surge in demand that is currently happening,” he said.
According to the UWLC, a total of 27,130 Lake County residents are estimated to be food insecure, which is 11.8 percent of the population and corresponds to one in 8.5 residents.
The numbers are 9 percent higher than in 2019, before the pandemic.
Additionally, about 7,000 Lake County children are estimated to be food insecure, accounting for 14.8 percent, which is one in 6.7.
These figures are 11 percent higher than in 2019.
The nonprofit added that nearly a third of Lake County residents struggle to meet basic needs, including the “working poor” who make up an absolute 23 percent, in addition to the 8 percent living in poverty.
“Rapidly rising food prices and the inflationary environment we find ourselves in have placed an even greater burden on these residents and the middle class, who are not eligible for federal programs or nutrition assistance,” Lewis said.
Denise Dwarning, Vineyard Community Church in Wycliffe, noted that there was an ever-increasing need for her pantry.
“It’s not even a ‘Should I buy food or medicine?’ more is “Can we afford anything?” While people seem to think it’s getting better, it’s not. It’s getting worse,” she said.
“We’re getting more and more feedback from people saying they’re afraid of not being able to feed their children or take care of their three-generation family of grandparents, children and grandchildren just trying to survive.”
Those who are struggling with hunger or need medical and social services are advised to visit uwlc.org/help-resources. Further assistance can also be obtained by calling Lifebuoy 2-1-1 reference hotline 24/7.
Those who can donate are asked to visit uwlc.org/give.
Checks payable to the United Way of Lake County can also be mailed to them at 9285 Progress Parkway, Mentor, OH 44060. Note: FLC.