United Way of Lake County applauded for helping residents living with food insecurity

It’s sad to know that a rising number of Lake County residents are dealing with financial difficulties that have affected their efforts to regularly buy food needed to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

Despite that grim reality, we’re still grateful for the outstanding work done by United Way of Lake County to keep area food pantries stocked to properly serve their clients.

A recent News-Herald story reported that UWLC has distributed a total of $87,000 in food items to more than 30 Lake County food pantries as efforts to address the growing community need have increased.

While some of the distributions occurred last month, the bulk of the action took place June 23.

Clients and staff members from the Lake County Board of Developmental Disabilities/Deepwood were on-site to volunteer in loading the food into various pantry vehicles.

UWLC agrees with panties several times a year to determine the items that are most needed.

Items typically requested include apple juice, fruit cocktail, cereal, oatmeal, pancake mix, syrup, peanut butter and jelly, soup, mac and cheese, pasta, tuna, canned chicken, boxed mashed potatoes and bottled water.

Donations began during the nonprofit’s 30th Annual Food Drive and Fundraiser, which takes place every spring.

Two of the largest donors to date include Mentor Public Schools, whose students and administration collected and donated food valued at over $23,000, and Marous Brothers Construction, which collected and donated food valued at over $7,000.

In addition to the food UWLC collected, the organization raised over $60,000 in cash from donors, including $25,000 donated by Buyers Products Co. in Mentor.

The funds will be used to help restock food pantry shelves later in the year, officials noted.

“We are grateful for the generosity of our donors and volunteers who made today happen,” said UWLC Director of Marketing and Communications Tami Lewis. “The collective impact we’ve been able to make will help ensure families in need have food on the table and our community’s children do not go to bed hungry.”

Pastor Larry Bogenrief of Willow Praise Church in Willowick praised UWLC for helping fill his pantry’s needs, adding that his food bank is experiencing a growing sense of urgency, especially among seniors living on fixed incomes while battling rising costs.

Moreover, Bogenrief’s clients have increased from fewer than 100 regulars in December to 185 this month, and he expects the rapid growth to continue.

“Over the last 15 years I’ve been running our food bank, I’ve never seen anything like the uptick in need that’s currently occurring,” he said.

According to UWLC, a total of 27,130 Lake County residents are estimated to be living with food insecurity, reflecting 11.8 percent of the population and equating to one in 8.5 residents.

The figures are 9 percent higher than in 2019, before the pandemic.

Additionally, about 7,000 Lake County children are estimated to be living with food insecurity, which reflects 14.8 percent, equating to one in 6.7.

These numbers are 11 percent higher than in 2019.

Nearly one-third of Lake County residents struggle to afford basic needs, the nonprofit added, including the “working poor” who make up a stark 23 percent, on top of the 8 percent who live in poverty.

“The rapid price hikes in food and the inflationary environment we find ourselves in has placed an even greater burden on these residents and middle class who do not qualify for federal nutrition programs or assistance,” Lewis said.

Denise Dworning, of Vineyard Community Church in Wickliffe, noted her pantry has been seeing a steady increase in need.

“It’s not even a case of ‘Do I buy food or medicine?’ anymore, it’s ‘Can we afford anything?’ Although people seem to think it’s getting better, it’s not. It’s getting worse,” she said.

We applaud the ambition and diligence demonstrated by United Way of Lake County to help area children, families and senior citizens suffering from food insecurity. Those who are in a position to support UWLC in this endeavor with donations are asked to visit uwlc.org/give.

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