More families in our small town are struggling than you may think.
Hannah Rosenberg, food programs coordinator at Oberlin Community Services, said the number of people who rely on the center’s pantry is “steadily and slowly increasing in demand.”
She sees 300 families per week on average, totaling roughly 1,200 families in June.
There is no clear-cut answer as to why more families are relying on food pantries, Rosenberg said, but she pointed to the continuing decrease in state and federal support for people who are struggling.
From June 1 to when we spoke to Rosenberg on July 16, she counted 5,802 “points of service,” which includes family members and the number of times people have used the pantry.
One person in a family is counted as a single point. If that same person comes again the next day, the visit is counted as a another point of service.
Last summer, the pantry had 5,778 points by this time.
The 2016 number — 5,966 — is skewed because the center’s free produce distribution started in June. This year, the summer program began in July, which Rosenberg said will “skyrocket” points of service. It is open to anyone who lives in Lorain County.
The numbers do not take into account the summer foods service program, which gives free helps students who qualify for free and reduced meals during the school year. So far this summer, 4,209 lunches have been distributed, which Rosenberg said “certainly double from last year.”
In the pantry, fresh produce is always the biggest demand.
“People get really excited about produce and sometimes come only for it. Protein items, too — meat, tuna, peanut butter. People are less excited about canned items and bread. And everyone loves dessert,” Rosenberg said.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.