The Foodbank gifts box truck to Wesley Community Center

The Foodbank gifts box truck to Wesley Community Center

How we are continuing to grow our agency capacity work to better serve the Miami Valley

By: Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Outreach/SNAP Lead

While The Foodbank’s direct service programs, such as the Drive Thru food pantry and our Mobile Farmers Markets, receive a lot of attention, the heart of our mission is still the daily acquisition and distribution of food.

In September, our Drive Thru and mobiles served a total of 5,158 households, while our partner agency food pantries alone served 14,295 families. By acquiring and distributing food for these food pantries as well as soup kitchens, emergency shelters, and other hunger relief organizations, we magnify our impact across the Miami Valley.

Additionally, while our primary mission is to provide food to people experiencing food insecurity, our partner agencies work directly in their respective communities. Many of them provide services far beyond food assistance, such as financial assistance, which makes them better positioned to address the root causes of poverty.

But our partner agencies face challenges of their own. Many of them are staffed by older individuals who are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill due to COVID-19. At the height of the pandemic, only 75 of our 120 partner agencies were still open and serving people. 

So how do we support the work our partner agencies do? With capacity building support such as helping our partner agencies apply for grant funding, re-granting funding to them, and donating used equipment. At the height of COVID-19-related closures, we re-granted over $190,000 to the partner agencies that remained open to support their work.

Most recently, The Foodbank was able to donate a refrigerated box truck to the Wesley Community Center, one of our partner agencies. The Wesley Center operates a food pantry and Kids Cafe meal site. We selected the winner of the truck with a raffle.

 

 

Wesley Center staff received their truck at an October 14 key turnover event.

The mission of the Wesley Community Center is to meet the spiritual and basic needs of families of all ages offering assistance in education and training, employment, and human assistance in transitioning families toward self-sufficiency. 

The Wesley Center was established in 1966 as a response to the Civil Rights movement to bring the Miami Valley together in a time of unrest. They were founded under what is now known as the Miami Valley District of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church and continue to be a safe haven for Dayton area families in times of need. 

Cheryl Cole of the Wesley Center said the box truck will enable the center to host off site food distributions for families that have difficulty getting to a pantry. It will also allow the center to provide food for seniors living in senior apartments and villages.

“Having this truck opens a whole new door for Wesley to serve the surrounding communities,” Cheryl Cole of the Wesley Center said. 

The Foodbank acquires and distributes food to 116 other agencies just like the Wesley Center. As part of our commitment to shortening our line, we also want to make sure our agencies have everything they need to make that possible as well.

The heart of the work we do is centered around our agencies and the incredible staff and volunteers that help make it happen. We will continue to say time and time again that hunger does not work in silos. It stems from many issues such as mental illness, domestic violence, homelessness — the list goes on. With the help of our agencies, we know that if we combat hunger, we can then begin the fight to address the other social determinants that lead to a healthy life.

Given the volume of agencies we work with, we can always find a pantry or other program that fits your schedule. You can locate a pantry near you by calling 937-238-5132. A full list of agencies is available on our website

To learn more about the Wesley Center and its mission, visit their website.


The “Heat or Eat” Dilemma

The “Heat or Eat” Dilemma

How heating and cooling costs contribute to seasonal increases in food insecurity

By: Emily Gallion, Grants & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager and Caitlyn McIntosh, Outreach/SNAP Lead

For the millions of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, any variability in cost of living expenses can bring hardship. In Northern states like Ohio, increases in utility costs during cooler months can lead to a dilemma: pay your utility bill or purchase food?

According to a 2018 US Energy Information Administration report, nearly one in three American households struggle to pay utility bills. About one in five households also reported forgoing basic necessities, such as food or medication, to pay energy bills.

The challenges low income households face to pay their utility bills highlights a grim paradox: It’s expensive to live in poverty. While a wealthier household can afford to make necessary efficiency improvements, such as installing insulation, that will reduce their heating and cooling costs in the long term, many lower income households do whatever they can to make ends meet.

This may help explain the relationship between a family’s “energy burden” and their ability to move out of poverty. A November 2019 study of households living below the poverty line found that families that were “energy burdened” — or spending 10% or more of their income on energy costs — had more difficulty escaping and staying out of poverty.

In fact, the households that were energy burdened were both twice as unlikely to see their income rise above the federal poverty limit and twice as likely to fall into poverty.

This issue is particularly striking in rural communities. According to a study from US News & World Report, rural low-income families spend three times more of their income on energy bills than any other part of the country. Many families are then forced to restrict their food budget in order to pay their bills.

Yvonne, a Foodbank client who visits our mobile food pantry in Xenia, says “food is the only budget you can adjust,” she added in. “You can’t change the water bill.”

While many low-income households do try to adjust their energy bills by rationing natural gas and electricity, during Ohio winters, families reach the point where they’re forced to turn up the heat to avoid pipes bursting.

Although energy costs in Ohio are below the national average, families at the lowest income levels still face a high energy burden. Similar to other areas, Ohio counties that are rural face higher energy burdens than urban areas.

An interactive study from The Atlantic shows that Preble County residents living below 50% of the federal poverty limit (FPL) spend a staggering 36.7% of their income on energy bills. Greene County residents living at the same income levels spend about 30.9% and 29.3% for Montgomery County.

There are many factors that contribute to higher energy burdens on rural households, including higher rates of poverty. Rural areas are also more likely to have homes that are older and less energy efficient. They are also more likely to use more expensive fuel sources, such as propane, to heat their homes. This may explain why poor residents of Preble County have higher energy burdens than those of the same income levels in Montgomery County.

There is a racial justice component to energy costs as well. According to the Community Action Partnership, the utility disconnection rate among white households is 5.5%, but 11.3% among Black households.

These added pressures can be particularly worrisome for families trying to make it through the winter holidays. The Foodbank tends to see an increase in client visits during this time as families are preparing to make sure there is enough food on their tables. In 2019, our drive thru saw one of its largest service dates on the Friday before Thanksgiving, serving 425 households.

Fortunately, programs exist for people struggling to make their utility payments. The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is available to Ohioans living at or below 175% of the federal poverty limit. This program will pay one home energy bill for qualifying applicants each year.

In addition to HEAP, the Ohio Development Services Agency operates two programs for households that have been disconnected, are at risk of disconnection, or have less than a 25 percent supply of bulk fuel in their tank. The Winter and Summer Crisis Programs provide assistance to qualifying residents living at or below 175% the federal poverty limit (see above). To qualify for emergency assistance, households must sign up for a payment plan such as the Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP), which caps energy expenditures at 6% (natural gas users) or 10% (electricity users).

Community Action Agencies exist to provide financial support to low-income families working towards becoming self-sufficient. Assistance is available for utility bills, rental assistance, and more. To find a local agency near you, visit the Community Action Partnership’s website.

While The Foodbank’s vision is that no one should go hungry, we also know that hunger does not operate in silos. Part of our work also includes finding additional resources to stabilize the lives of families in our line.

For more information on programs and resources in the Dayton area, visit United Way’s website at https://dayton-unitedway.org/ or by calling 2-1-1.