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Food Banks across Northeast Ohio hurt from broken supply chain, lack of volunteers

Food bank
Posted at 5:24 PM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 18:29:04-05

CLEVELAND — Food banks in Northeast Ohio are gearing up for the holidays, but are struggling with a lack of volunteers and the effects of a broken supply chain.

Terance Round has volunteered at the Greater Cleveland food bank since 1995 and he enjoys every moment of it.

“I’m just lucky we are all the same and we are all in this together and it’s just helping people out,” said Round.

As he directs traffic in the Muni Lot while greeting those who come in, he's noticed that the line has gotten longer in the past few months.

“When Covid first hit we had about 3,000 cars, now it’s down to 2,000 cars but is beginning to creep back up again,” said Round.

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank started their Muni lot distribution at the beginning of the pandemic and they continued it. But after the National Guard left it has become harder to get volunteers as a whole.

“We're probably at like half the numbers of volunteers that we have now compared to pre-pandemic,” said Karen Pozna Director of Communications at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Apart of the reason is due to the CDC guidelines which allow fewer people in the building. But the issue is also with food.

“You know, food costs have definitely increased shipping costs have increased as well. And that's where the monetary donations are so important to the food bank,” said Pozna.

Right now the food bank says food costs are up 20% and shipping 40% causing them to adjust their budget so they can still serve 1700 households every week.

“We ordered just over 21,000 turkeys to make sure that we had enough to distribute to Northeast Ohioans,” said Pozna.

And with the holiday season, that number is only rising. Not too far from the Muni Lot is a Hunger Network pantry where people are loading, bagging, and feeding families.

At their 74 locations, they also could use some help.

“There's just not enough of us to go around. So not only do we need funds to help to increase the giving to make sure that we can supply the food to our people in need, but also to have people accessible to do those programs such as volunteers,” Dena Adler the Director of Development Hunger network.

In 2019 they saw more than 400,000 volunteers, in 2020 there were more than 390,000. While his year, so far they've only seen 159,000 volunteers.

“It has been more difficult to get the volunteers to come work at the pantries because a lot of people are now back in the office even though with the pandemic,” said Adler.

Both pantries say they are seeing a slow increase in demand and will work to strategically serve those meals but can use the help.

The Greater Cleveland Foodbank expects to feed more than 300,000 people this year. For more information on the food bank click here.

For information on Hunger Network click here.

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