The supply of canned goods and other non-perishable food items is dwindling at the Food Bank for the Heartland. The Omaha-based facility helps stock the shelves of food pantries in 93 counties in Nebraska and western Iowa. Food Bank president and C.E.O. Susan Ogborn is appealing to donors.
“We are about two-million pounds lower than we were this time last year,” she says. Donations often drop during the summer months, but not usually to this extent, plus, there are fewer food drives as demand continues to grow. The food bank distributed ten-million pounds of food in 2011, a ten-percent increase from 2009. Ogborn says another issue is a drop in federal government funding.
“The Emergency Food Assistance Program,” she says. “That is being cut back further and further as Washington tries to balance its budget.” Ogborn says when they get low on supplies, less food is available to send to food pantries across the region. She says those who operate the pantries are feeling the pinch.
She says, “We hear from our pantry partners on a regular basis and it sounds something like, ‘How come you don’t have any food?’ We’re doing our best.” Ogborn says every canned food item or jar of peanut butter donated is appreciated and put to good use. She says the food bank is also able to stretch every dollar donated to do the most good.
“Because of our bulk purchasing and because of our nationwide links, we are able to buy food much less expensively,” she says. “For a dollar we can provide three meals. That’s pretty good buying power.” The Food Bank for the Heartland hosts several anti-hunger programs, including: the Kids Cafe, Food for Seniors, Mobile Food Pantries, Summer Meals for Kids, fresh produce stands and more.
The food bank serves 77 counties in Nebraska and 16 in western Iowa. The facility says 22,000 people in its service area receive emergency food assistance every week.