Youngstown food bank struggles with collecting donated food, lacking volunteers

Local News

(WKBN) – When you think of food banks, you think of food leaving. Do you think of how it gets there? A Youngstown food bank is struggling with that issue and has a desperate need for help picking up donated food.

There’s a buzz at Gleaners Food Bank.

The refrigerator units are running non-stop on five trailers parked outside. They protect the frozen dinners and frozen vegetables, until they’re ready to be handed out.

“We have a lot of ice cream. We have a lot of frozen meat, and you have to keep that sub-zero. So when you have a trailer set at -10 and it’s 90° outside with blazing sun, it’s a struggle,” said John Rea, a foreman at the food bank.

Gleaners is working on getting property and funding to get a bigger warehouse. It’s current location was built in the 40s.

It also needs drivers who can pick up donated food, one had just brought in an important shipment.

“It’s a whole load of cookies, 40,000 pounds of cookies,” Rea said.

Gleaners need people who can drive a straight truck, which doesn’t require a CDL, to Cleveland, Akron or even Coumbiana.

It also needs those with a license who are an owner/operator and would be willing to volunteer and pick-up donated loads.

“We have about a 10-day window that we can schedule it, so guys may still be running on the road. They can give us a day they know they’re going to have some down time, and we can schedule the load to have them pick it up,” Rea said.

Gleaners can also use volunteers who can handle a forklift, tow lift or pallet jack and help move the food.
More volunteers are needed to sort the items.

On Monday, Gleaners was preparing for Tuesday’s weekly food distribution, which has been averaging 280 families a week.

“That’s the calling that we have is to get this food to distribute to the people, and the food is out there. It’s just a matter of getting it and getting it to the people who need it,” Rea said.

The drivers are important because Gleaners had an offer recently of four pallets of food from Akron. It showed up and six pallets were available.  

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