YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - It's the giving season and Project: Feed Our Valley is counting on your donations to stock the shelves, and help the less fortunate this holiday season.
Your donations add up at the Second Harvest Food Bank, feeding families and others in crisis.
Mike Iberis, Executive Director of the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley says, "The eight years or so that we've been in this location we've doubled the amount of food that we've distributed. Nine million pounds of food was distributed through our pantries and kitchens last year."
And the number of people needing emergency food has increased this year.
That's why winning the Walmart Facebook Challenge last spring was so critical for Second Harvest Food Bank. The challenge supplied money for equipment, including the construction of a new 2,500 square foot freezer ready room to help store that food.
"The $715,000 dollars that the Walmart Foundation awarded to the Second Harvest Food Bank was used for capacity building. The foundation decided that they wanted to see food banks increase their capacity so that more food could be brought in, stored and distributed in a more efficient manner. And I guess that makes a lot of sense, because this issue of poverty is not going away. We've seen a 50 percent increase in the last three years in the number of people coming to food banks, and to pantries and kitchens," Iberis said.
The Walmart cash will also help fund a nutrition program in the Salem area early next year. It is a partnership between Second Harvest Food Bank, the United Way and Salem Community Hospital and its nutritionists. Its education on how to eat healthy on a budget, and help on how to prepare foods that may not be so familiar.
"Sometimes there are things like squash and things of that nature that you may not particularly have every day, so you're not quite sure what to do with it. We're hoping the nutrition class takes somewhat of a lead in being able to help people cook things that they have normally not cooked before," Iberis says.
It's a pilot program that could be shared with other communities in the future.
If you would like to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank and help those in need of emergency food in Columbiana, Trumbull and Mahoning counties you can donate canned goods and non-perishable food items at drop-off boxes at any Sparkle Markets in the area. Just look for the boxes marked "Project Feed Our Valley."
This is the 6th year that 21 WFMJ and Second Harvest Food Bank have teamed up to help feed those in need through Project: Feed Our Valley.