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New food pantry coming to Lorain County as thousands will see cut to SNAP benefits come March 1

Lorain County Community Action Agency transforming bike shop to food security center
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Posted at 8:25 PM, Feb 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-13 23:22:13-05

LORAIN, Ohio — The federal government is cutting the allotted emergency SNAP benefits put into place during the pandemic come March 1 and community resources in Lorain County are stepping up anticipating the increased need for food security.

Employees and volunteers at the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio are stocking up and sorting food at the warehouse in Lorain.

Julia Chase-Morefield is the president and CEO.

“In Lorain County, specifically, we serve about 78,000 unduplicated people. It's almost 25% of the population of the county, so it gives you an idea of just how many people are reaching out to our food pantries for assistance,” she said.

But, she worries about what is to come when the extra SNAP benefits come to an end.

“We are very nervous. We are making plans. We are being proactive,” she said. “But places like Kentucky and Indiana, they saw a third more people showing up at food pantries after the SNAP emergency allotment ended and we aren’t seeing that much food come into our warehouse, so that’s a big concern for us going forward is how we are going to meet this need as people are showing up? Are we even going to have enough food to meet the need?”

She said for every nine SNAP meals, food pantries can provide one. Though she is comforted by agencies like Lorain County Community Action.

“We’ve known for years that there aren’t enough food pantries within the cities of Lorain County, but those food pantries that are open everyday in neighborhoods, those are critically important,” she said.

Lorain County Community Action Agency helps people throughout the county in a variety of ways providing energy assistance programs, rent assistance, youth employment and more.

Bobby Taylor is the director of programming and community services. He said that during the pandemic, the agency opened up a bike shop on West 10th Street in Lorain.

“Here in Lorain County, public transportation is a major need so that's why we opened up the shop,” he said. “We would receive donated bicycles, fix them up and get them out to the community for a low price.”

But he said as time went on, it became clear there was a more pressing need for residents: food security.

“Over the last year food requests were second, only to housing and shelter, and 80% of those food requests were for food pantry assistance and information,” he said.

LCCAA will begin to transform the bike shop into a new for pantry in response to the increased food insecurity in the community. LCCAA said 17,000 households in the county receive SNAP benefits and it found that 48% of those households include children and another 30% include seniors.

“We just thought ‘how are we serving the public at large?’ I mean these SNAP benefits are vital to just how people live,” said Taylor.

The shop’s bike inventory will be sold, donated or repurposed. The pantry will focus on fresh produce and perishable items. LCCAA is partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank and other community resources.

Taylor said the work is just in the beginning stages right now but he is confident the pantry will be a beacon of hope in what could be hard times to come.

“We are in the business of hope,” he said. “We feel like our agency is a conduit to bring things together.”

According to a press release, the retail space of the bike shop will be converted this summer by workers in the Youth Services program.

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