Food insecurity affects thousands in Delaware County

February 28, 2014

Feeding America, a national nonprofit organization of food banks, says 17,890 people in Delaware County are struggling with food insecurity.

That’s more than 10 percent of the 174,214 countians identified in the 2010 census.

Isn’t Delaware County one of the more affluent counties in Ohio, with what is traditionally the lowest unemployment rate?

If everyone doesn’t have enough to eat, how did this happen and what does it mean?

Brandon Feller, President of United Way of Delaware County, explains what might not be immediately obvious: “Delaware County has this weird thing where we’re low in unemployment, but what isn’t counted is the underemployment, or the folks sitting right above that bubble that don’t necessarily qualify but are still in a struggling situation. … There literally are more people hungry in Delaware County than the entire population of some poverty-stricken southern Ohio counties.”

Feeding America says if a household suffers food insecurity, its members do not always know where they will find their next meal.

The United States Department of Agriculture in 2012 estimated 15.9 million American children under 18 live in this condition. In 38 states, that figure topped 20 percent. Underfed children are affected not only physically. It diminishes their ability to perform well in school, setting a stage on which their entire life could be affected. Hunger among children is mitigated, to a degree, by free and reduced-price lunches available in schools.

The MidOhio Food Bank serves 20 Ohio counties including Delaware. It found that in 2013, 57 percent of its clients had to make a choice between buying food and paying utility bills, and 43 percent had to make a choice between buying food and paying for housing.

In Delaware County, a number of groups fighting food insecurity have formed the Delaware County Hunger Alliance. Its members are: Andrews House, Common Ground Free Store, Council for Older Adults, Delaware County General Health District, FEED Delaware, Helpline, Highpoint Community Outreach, Lutheran Social Services, Mid-Ohio Food Band, The Open Table, People In Need, The Salvation Army, United Way of Delaware County, William Street Methodist Church and Woodward Family Resource Center.

Across its 20 counties, the MidOhio Food Bank in fiscal 2013 distributed 48.6 million pounds of food, groceries and produce, enough for 107,000 meals a day. It is a cost-effective organization with about 13,500 volunteers, enabling it to convert each $1 donated into four meals.

Also vital are its financial donors, food industry donors and second-serving donors. The list of these donors fills page after page in the MidOhio Food Bank’s annual report.

Overall, the fight against hunger is a vast effort. The problem it battles is equally vast.