Wholesale Food Purchases Help Provide Better Choices for Our Neighbors

Wholesale Food Purchases Help Provide Better Choices for Our Neighbors

Valley Food Relief, our annual partnership with the Dayton Daily News, contributes to our wholesale budget —
here’s why that matters

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager

At The Foodbank, our goal is not simply to provide as much food as possible — it matters to us that the meals we provide are as nourishing, life-sustaining, and culturally appropriate as the food our neighbors would choose to purchase for themselves.

That’s why our in-house food purchase program is so important. Every year, we receive generous food donations from a variety of sources, including food drives, retail stores, and food purchased by the federal and state government. Last fiscal year, these donations were valued at over $18 million, roughly 80% of our organization’s total budget.

Our wholesale food purchase program fills important gaps in donated product. Often, we use these funds to acquire frozen meat, fresh vegetables, and specialty items. Sometimes, we purchase food for special diets, such as nutrition shakes for our older adults. Around cultural holidays, we purchase turkeys, hams, and other foods that our neighbors can enjoy with their families.

Food purchases also play a critical role in our direct service programs. While the majority of the food we acquire is distributed to our 98 partner agencies in Montgomery, Greene, and Preble counties, we operate several outreach programs to serve special populations.

When we pilot a new program, we typically offer a pre-set menu to keep the program consistent. This helps us to evaluate the program at the end of the pilot. Because of the wide variety of donations we receive, we need to purchase program-specific food so we always have enough product on hand.

Some of our other programs, such as our Dayton Children’s Rx Boxes and Good-to-Go Backpack Program, also use purchased food. Because children are a high-risk population, we cannot use donated or extended-date food. Purchasing food for these programs also helps us include healthy, kid-friendly options for the young ones who use the programs.

Last year, we distributed over $600,000 in purchased food — more than ever before. Prior to the pandemic, we typically purchased between $400,000 and $500,000 in food, but the increasing demand for food assistance has led us to buy more product. We anticipate we will need to purchase around the same amount this year to keep up with elevated demand.

While supply chain disruptions have increased food costs nationwide, this program is critical to our operations and the neighbors we serve. For all the reasons above, we must operate a robust purchase program alongside the generous food donations we receive from the community.

Valley Food Relief, our annual partnership with the Dayton Daily News, typically provides nearly half of our total food purchase budget. We are grateful for the support of DDN, who have supported us in this campaign for around forty years now.

Because of our large size, we are able to purchase food in bulk from retailers at a lower cost than you can find at the grocery store. We purchase food based on agency requests, direct-service program needs, and feedback from the people we serve.

While the holidays are wrapping up, Valley Food Relief is still going strong until January 10. To contribute, go to https://thefoodbankdayton.org/donate/ and select Valley Food Relief.

Every dollar raised through this campaign goes toward the purchase of healthy food for our Miami Valley community!


It takes a village: We couldn’t do it without our volunteers

It takes a village: We couldn’t do it without our volunteers

Our volunteers are just as vital to our work as our donors

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Volunteer/Intake Support

We often celebrate our monetary donors and talk about how far we can stretch your dollar. But if time is money, our volunteers are just as valuable. Volunteers are the heart of our work, and many of our operations, from food sorting to distribution, could not be completed without their generosity.

For proof, we only need to look back to recent history. In 2019, we hosted a record breaking 8,000 volunteers throughout our warehouse and mobile pantries. Largely in response to the 2019 Memorial Day Tornadoes, we were impressed to see the response of our community during a time of crisis. We knew our volunteer program was evolving into something special. 

However, the onset of COVID changed everything about our operations. All of our mobile pantries temporarily closed, and over 40% of our partner agencies shut their doors for safety measures. The hardest decision we had to make was to not allow any volunteers inside our building, as they are the backbone of our daily operations.

The truth is, even though our staff is amazing, we could not be such a high performing team if it weren’t for the support of volunteers. For example, our mass distributions require over 100 staff and volunteers in order to make sure food is distributed quickly, traffic flows safely, and clients get registered in a timely manner. 

At a recent Thanksgiving mass food distribution, we served over 1700 households. This could not happen with our staff of 50 people alone. We also rely on volunteers to support our monthly Mobile Farmers Markets, which distributed over 2 million pounds of food — much of it fresh produce — directly in high-need communities last year.

One of the best parts about volunteering is the people you will meet. Getting to see clients face-to-face adds a different level to the volunteer experience. As a Foodbank volunteer, you get to see firsthand the work we do to relieve hunger in our community. 

While many people have assumptions about who our clients are, participating in our food distributions can foster greater empathy and compassion for our neighbors experiencing food insecurity. It is our hope that people will come to view those who use our services not simply as people in need, but as individuals with stories and experiences as rich and meaningful as their own.

Our goal for your volunteer experience is to leave as an advocate for our work. Charitable food assistance is just one way to address hunger in our community. To solve food insecurity at its root, we must work towards systemic change to address the drivers of poverty. By building relationships with volunteers, we can create a community of action.

To schedule a volunteer shift, visit www.thefoodbankinc.volunteermatters.org and create an account. You can participate in a variety of activities, including sorting and packaging food, working in our Urban Garden, and distributing food at a Mobile Farmers Market.

If you have ever volunteered with us at The Foodbank, we offer our gratitude on behalf of the people we serve.  Your impact expands so far beyond the hours you serve!


How to host a holiday food drive

How to host a holiday food drive

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Intake/Volunteer Support

The holiday season is in full swing, which means things are getting busier here at our warehouse. We see an overall increase in volunteer hours, donations, and corporate campaigns. One of the most popular ways people choose to give back is by hosting a food drive.

While some food banks have moved away from accepting food drive donations during COVID, our food drive program is back in full swing. Whether you’re gathering items at home, work, or school, food drives are a great way to add a personal touch to your holiday giving by adding your favorite food items.

We’ve created a short how-to guide to help you get started!

What items can I donate?

This time of year, lists of items that you should or shouldn’t donate circulate on social media. Don’t overthink it! We encourage people to follow a simple guideline: What would your family eat?

The families we serve also enjoy the same sorts of foods you do, including easy-to-prepare meals, snacks, and the occasional sweet treat. Remember that our goal is not to provide as much food at as low cost as possible, but to serve our neighbors with the food they need for a healthy, active lifestyle.

We welcome non-perishable food donations of all kinds. Some popular items are canned meat and fish, hearty soups, rice, beans, and canned fruits and veggies. We are unable to accept perishable foods through food drives. 

We can also accept non-food items, such as toiletries and pet food. In keeping with food safety guidelines, please store these items separately from all food.

Consider a virtual food drive!

The easiest way to maximize your impact is through a monetary contribution. Because of our ability to purchase in bulk, our partnerships with local retail donors, and our hard-working food procurement team, we were able to distribute five meals for every $1 donated last year.

To put that in perspective, a 24-pack of ramen at a local grocer costs around $5. On average, a $5 contribution provides 25 meals — and one-third of the food we distributed last year was fresh produce. If you yourself are working with a tight budget this holiday season, consider donating to us, and we’ll do the shopping!

That said, we do value the food we receive through food drives tremendously. This food is an important supplement to our other food procurement streams. Physical food drives are also important to raise awareness around the issue of food insecurity during the holidays.

Visit this page to learn more about organizing a fund drive.

Get started today!

Scheduling a food drive is simple: Before you start, contact Jamie Robinson at (937) 461-0265 x14 or jrobinson@thefoodbankdayton.org to discuss the details of your drive. Then, fill out this participation form on our website. Please allow 48 hours before you pick up or drop off your food drive barrel(s).

At the end of the drive your collection of food may be dropped off at The Foodbank, Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 a.m. through 12:00 pm and 1:00 p.m. through 3:30 p.m. Please call to let us know when you are coming. Lunch appointments for drop off can be arranged in advance.

Questions? Call Jamie Robinson at (937) 461-0265 ext. 14.

Consider these ideas to make your food drive more impactful:

  • Offer materials, such as this factsheet from Feeding America, about food insecurity alongside donation barrels.
  • Set up friendly competitions between departments to encourage giving
  • Come up with a theme! Ex: allow casual wear for people who donate, hold a potluck lunch with a canned good as cost of admission, etc.
  • Ask your organization to match donations with cash to incentivize giving