If you're hungry in Ohio, you're not alone. In fact, you could be among the 850,000 households who at the end of October could find even less food resources available when the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loses some of its funding.
At Wednesday's signing in the Ohio Statehouse by Gov. John Kasich [video] of a resolution recognizing September as Hunger Action Month, Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks [OAFB], said that if the reduction in SNAP funding by as much as $40 billion dollars comes to pass as congressional Republicans are pushing for, it will be bad for Ohio and its growing army of people, many of them children, who don't have enough to eat.
Gov. Kasich told reporters present that his administration has boosted funding for programs for hungry Ohioans by tens of millions of dollars. In 60 Seconds Ohio, Hamler-Fugitt said Ohio is still recovering from the Great Recession and that workers with jobs are not earning a living wage and benefits including health care.
Kasich said his administration has invested $25 million toward helping the hungry in his first state budget, an amount up from $17 million by the Strickland administration. In his second state budget, the one currently in effect, the investment increased to $29 million.
A healthy stomach makes for a healthy brain, Kasich said
An unusual moment took place today when Gov. Kasich, presented with the gift of an orange tie to celebrate "Go Orange for Hunger" Day from a foodbank worker who joked that the tie cost $2 and shouldn't be washed, took out a fist full of money and laid two $1 bills on the podium, as if he was paying for the tie.
"It's really sad when we see folks who spent 30-40 years in professional careers who can't find employment now because they're saying I'm too old," she said, noting that the Buckeye State is an aging state and more senior citizens are coming to foodbanks. She said employees need to be compensated for the hard work they do, but if cuts in food assistance materialize at the size GOP House Members want, it could take $200 million out of the economy, and hurt children, who represent 42 percent of where SNAP funds go, and 70 percent of working households, which for a family of four could mean 21 fewer meals per month at the same time food costs are rising.
Ohio ranks 11th nationally for high food insecurity: 15.5 percent of Ohioans didn't have enough food in 2011. Since 2007, median income is down but poverty and unemployment is up in Ohio.
This size of cuts Republicans want to deliver to the SNAP program, she said, is twice the amount proposed during the farm bill debate. She hopes President Obama will veto any farm bill that does not include food assistance because it's the first line of defense for low-income, working families.
Food banks and hunger charities cannot respond to increasing hunger on their own, Hamler-Fugitt said, adding that "SNAP is a powerful tool that keeps Ohio's most vulnerable from going hungry."
OAFB Is Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger, representing Ohio’s 12 Feeding America foodbanks and 3,300 member charities including food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.
Good news did arrive earlier in August when Ohio foodbanks received $1.95 million in a Federal Navigator Grants Award. "This grant will allow us to raise awareness about the federally-facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace and connect Ohioans with assistance in enrolling in plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace beginning this fall," Public News Service reported.
It was announced about two weeks ago that Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich will join the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and faith-based and community groups throughout Ohio to lead a statewide food and funds drive to support Ohio foodbanks. The campaign, called FeedOhio, will encourage Ohioans to get involved and give what they can to help individuals and families struggling with hunger.
"We need to realize that food is medicine, food is health," Hamler-Fugitt said, adding that impacts from sequestration and rollbacks in food stamps is "penny wise but pound foolish." These cuts, she said, are unfair and unreasonable and believes hungry has never been a partisan issue. She says Gov. Kasich continues to step-up to help develop human capital and job creation, but reminded that Ohio is not alone because the recovery is still weak.
Ohio’s Hunger Index illustrates that the economic conditions that influence hunger and food insecurity worsened significantly in the aftermath of the recession, with 2009 being the worst year.
Back in May, Gov. Kasich signed an Executive Order to support hunger relief by providing $1 million divided up among Ohio’s foodbanks for the purpose of purchasing, distributing or preparing foods for distribution and/or the purchase of health and hygiene items and infant care products such as infant formula and diapers. It also provided $500,000 for "farmers market" distributions of locally grown fruits and vegetables to needy families, in conjunction with the distribution of summer weekend backpack meals for at-risk children.
Hamler-Fugitt said Gov. Kasich's heart and intension are in the right place and complimented him for his outstanding support to the state's hungry and the foodbanks that increasing are feeding them. She said he's allowed fundings, for the first time, to be spent on non-food items working families need.
She also said the earned income tax benefit will help offset Kasich's and the Ohio legislature's increase in the sales tax.
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