LOGAN — Throughout September, the Southeast Ohio Foodbank & Kitchen will be recognizing Hunger Action Month. Hunger Action Month is a Feeding America initiative to raise awareness and accelerate plans of action to address hunger in the United States.

The Foodbank is a program of Hocking Athens Perry Community Action (HAPCAP), and has been feeding Southeast Ohioans for over 30 years. The Foodbank is based in Logan and serves 10 counties throughout the region, including Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Vinton, and Washington.

Over 60 member pantries are operating throughout the Foodbank’s service area. Combined with mobile food distributions at county fairgrounds, senior food boxes, Meals on Wheels, and summer meals for children, the Foodbank served five million meals in 2019 alone. Despite these achievements, hunger is still present in the homes of thousands of Southeast Ohioans.

Feeding America has released an interactive map showing the projected food insecurity rates of each county in the United States as a result of the pandemic. More than 54 million people nationwide may experience food insecurity due to COVID-19, including 18 million children.

“Southeast Ohio’s history with hunger and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is making the evidence very clear,” says Andrew Mayle, HAPCAP’s director of Food & Nutrition. “SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger, and the families we serve need this support to sustain them through this crisis, and any other financial crisis they may face.”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as SNAP or food stamps, is a federal program that provides a monthly food allowance to income-eligible families. The funds are loaded onto a debit card, otherwise known as an Electronic Benefits Transfer or EBT card, and can only be used on certain grocery items.

According to Feeding America, the program has had significant success in lifting families out of poverty. In 2015, 4.6 million families were pushed above the poverty line. When low-income families can receive SNAP benefits, they no longer need to shrink their food budget to meet other needs such as rent, utilities, or medical costs.

The next round of federal stimulus legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is still in discussion on Capitol Hill. Feeding America is urging a 15% increase in SNAP benefits to help alleviate the pressure on the nation’s Foodbanks, as well as putting money back into local economies through grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and easing the sacrifices food-insecure families often make each month.

Throughout Hunger Action Month, the Foodbank will be providing information on how Southeast Ohio Residents can contact their legislators to encourage support of the 15% SNAP increase. There will also be a flag installation in front of the Foodbank’s Warehouse on CIC drive, and a Facebook Live panel discussion on September 22 at 7:00 p.m. The discussion will include staff members of the Foodbank and Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

“The dedication of our staff, our volunteers, our donors, and our community partners is invaluable,” says Mayle. “We want to make sure the policy is in place to support their work, and to ensure that no one in our community goes hungry.”

For more information on programs at the Southeast Ohio Foodbank and Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, contact Claire Gysegem, Public Relations Manager at (740) 767-4500, or e-mail claire.gysegem@hapcap.org

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