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Ohio food banks get money to help with inflation, but it's short of what they asked for

Mid-Ohio foodbank.jpg
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
A view of some almost-empty shelves at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank south of Columbus in August 2022.

Nearly four months after Ohio’s struggling food banks requested $50 million in federal funds to help deal with inflation, a panel of state lawmakers has approved a request for aid. But it’s well short of their initial ask and it’s limited in what it can be used for.

In June, food banks asked for $50 million from the $5.3 billion in American Rescue Plan Act dollars that came to Ohio.

The request approved by the controlling board was for $15 million. That money will go to the Office of Budget and Management — on behalf of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services — to work with Ohio-based producers and processors and the 13 regional food banks. And it's for dairy and poultry-based proteins only.

Bryan Stout with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said the state is open to more talks with the food banks about their needs.

“I think that this request is an effort to use federal funds to meet an immediate need for the citizen of Ohio while as also supporting Ohio based producers," Stout told the controlling board — a panel of state legislators.

Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) asked if any of the money would go to advocacy or things other than food, and was told no.

A recent market report showed egg prices in the Midwest up 25% in just the last week, and dairy items up by 9% nationwide.

Some food banks have reported being down to just a few weeks of food when they usually have months of supplies on hand.

The Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks put out a statement that said, in part: “Today, Governor Mike DeWine renewed his commitment to supporting Ohio agriculture and keeping Ohio families nourished by advancing $15 million of Ohio’s American Rescue Plan Act dollars to support the Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program."

The statement went on to say the funds would be used by the Ohio Association of Foodbanks to purchase and distribute "much needed and highly sought-after Ohio protein products to households struggling to meet their basic needs during these times of historic inflation and rising food prices."

The group offered its appreciation to a list of Republican and Democratic leaders in the state, along with different Ohio associations of growers and commodity producers.

The news comes two weeks after the White House announced it will provide $1.5 billion in emergency food assistance funding, with $50 million coming to Ohio. But the money won't arrive till next year.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Ohio Association of Foodbanks executive director, said the $50 million her organization requested from the state in June still stands: "Immediate ARPA funds will prevent a bleak holiday season, as well as help our network reinforce its storage and distribution capacity for the months ahead and support Ohio agriculture."