Summer is coming and all eyes will be on Ohio since it's a major battleground state in the Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney presidential showdown.
What cannot be forgotten amid the election hype is that Ohio is suffering from a growing hunger crisis. A report released on Friday from Feeding America, the nation's largest food aid organization, showed that 18.1 percent of Ohio's population is suffering from hunger. Last year the rate was 17 percent. This "food insecurity" affects over two million people in the state.
Five Congressional districts in Ohio had hunger rates well above the Ohio average (districts 1, 3, 9, 11, and 17). Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director at the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, says, "We believe that no one in our state should go hungry or try to survive without access to adequate amounts of healthy, nutritious food."
The arrival of summer brings a new problem and it's not just legions of reporters and campaign staffs trouncing through the state. When school ends many children lose access to one of the most important safety nets against hunger, the federal free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch programs.
This is an issue in Ohio and across the nation as the dilemma becomes how to distribute the food with most schools closed during the summer months. New feeding sites or mobile pantries are some of the options that have been utilized, but huge gaps remain.
Many needy children who receive the meals during the school year end up going without during the summer. A report from the Children's Hunger Alliance showed that in Franklin County, Ohio there were over 78,000 children who received the free or reduced-price school lunches in 2011. In the summer, though, just over 11,000 children received the meals. In some counties there were no summer feeding sites at all last year.