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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Appalachian Ohio And The Hunger Factor: In A Sinking Economy, Ohio's Poorest Region Needs Help

ATHENS, Ohio (TDB) -- Ohio's Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher -- who heads the state's economic development office -- surely goes to bed each night without having to worry about where he'll find his next meal. But for a lot of Ohioans in the state's Appalachian region -- never prosperous to begin with -- a deteriorating economy threatens families with empty pots and dinner dishes. Fisher needs to deliver a virtuoso performance soon, or step aside. Simply put, Fisher needs to score some jobs, a tough task for sure. He's clearly been dealt a bad hand. But the time for big talk and big plans is probably over. After all, he did run two summers ago on a ticket promising to turn Ohio around. From the Athens News comes a report of increasing concern about food shortages in the state's hill country. Dick Stevens, district director of the Second Harvest Food Bank, is worried about rural Ohioans squeezed by high gasoline prices and a never robust regional economy:

"And the food couldn't come soon enough, Stevens said. In 2007, the food bank put out around 8 million pounds of food, down almost 2 million pounds from the previous two years. Rising gas and food prices, Stevens said, 'have had a tremendous impact on our operation here.' While the average family's budget is being stretched further by the month, Stevens said, 'More and more people are resorting to going to a food pantry for assistance.' In the Second Harvest Food Bank's service area, about half the population is at or below the poverty line."

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