Closing out a historic fiscal year at The Foodbank

Closing out a historic fiscal year at The Foodbank

Amidst the ongoing recovery from the 2019 tornado outbreak and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Foodbank distributed more food than ever before

By: Emily Gallion, Grant and Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager

Despite an unusually challenging year, The Foodbank was able to distribute 17,884,642 pounds of food in our 2020 fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.

Over one third of the food distributed by weight was fresh produce. With it, we were able to provide food to 116 partner agencies in our three-county network and serve a total of 935,404 people.

It’s hard to believe over a year has passed since the 2019 Memorial Day tornado outbreak. The storm left over $1 billion in property damage and at least 1,800 without homes. While the disaster struck a month before the beginning of the fiscal year, recovery has been slow, and the destruction is still visible in many parts of our community. Read about our tornado relief response here.

It’s even harder to believe that just one year after the storm, our community would be living through a mass shooting and a pandemic. It has been a challenging year,  but we are honored to have been able to serve our community through it.

Here are some highlights from the past year at The Foodbank:

Drive Thru fills critical gaps in COVID-19 response

A line of cars forms outside The Foodbank’s Drive Thru Food Pantry on a rainy distribution day.

Our on-site drive thru was built in 2018 as an accessible distribution site for our Senior Box Program. While we saw potential in the drive-thru to expand our distribution capabilities, we didn’t know just how critical it would be in our disaster relief efforts.

Early March was an extremely difficult time for us at The Foodbank. The spread of COVID-19 and mandatory social distancing measures forced us to rethink nearly every aspect of our operations.

We typically host Mobile Farmers Markets at 27 different sites each month, but the high attendance at these events makes social distancing difficult to enforce. Sadly, we had to suspend these distributions for nearly three months.

Additionally, we could no longer visit our 18 Senior Box distribution sites due to safety precautions at the living facilities. With all of these operations canceled, we were left with one way to get food out of the building and onto the tables of our community — our on-site Drive Thru Food Pantry.

Immediately, we saw attendance rates spike to levels we have never seen before. Before the pandemic began, our Drive Thru was averaging about 200-300 households per distribution. That number skyrocketed to 600-700 households per day, peaking at a record breaking 750 households on April 22nd.

This was an incredible year for the Drive Thru, which served a total of 37,249 households and distributed 3,467,113 pounds of food. It is an essential service that aids in our confidence that Miami Valley residents can always turn to us no matter the circumstance.

 

Mobile Farmers Markets distribute record-high number of meals despite COVID-related cancellations

Like nearly all aspects of our operations, our Mobile Farmers Market program was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We were forced to temporarily suspend our Mobile Farmers Markets March 12 to limit the spread of the virus.

After developing a plan to enforce social distancing, which included additional staffing to keep our families six feet apart, we were able to reopen on a limited basis starting in June.

After carefully evaluating each Mobile site to ensure our ability to enforce social distancing and reach all areas in our territory, we selected 11 sites to reopen first. We are continuing to evaluate the course of the pandemic as well as food insecurity projections in our area to determine our next courses of action.

While our almost three-month closure certainly affected our metrics, this has still been a very successful year for our Mobile Farmers Market program. Through this program alone, we were able to distribute a total of 1,848,453.7 pounds of food to families in our three-county service area — an increase of 73,990.5 pounds from the previous year!

We would like to thank our generous donors and volunteers for supporting our work in the past year. Last year, a total of 5,414 volunteers spent 13,600 hours with us. We couldn’t do it without your help! Follow our social media accounts @thefoodbankinc for future announcements on volunteer opportunities. While we are still not allowing volunteers on-site due to the severity of the pandemic, we hope to see you all soon.

It has been a record breaking year here at The Foodbank and we are hopeful for what the future holds. This year has challenged us in ways we never thought possible and proven our true resiliency as a team and a community. If you want to read more about our service area, hunger statistics, or our economic impact, visit our Tri-County Impact Statement on our website.


For older adults, hunger hides in plain sight

For older adults, hunger hides in plain sight

Poverty, mobility challenges, and health expenses contribute to food insecurity among seniors. Here’s how federal programs and The Foodbank help out.

By: Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager and Emily Gallion, Grants & Advocacy Manager

Many of us already know that older adults are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. But the pandemic isn’t the only health crisis impacting older adults.

While Americans may not think of hunger as an issue that affects our seniors, they face higher rates of food insecurity than the general population. In Ohio, over one in ten seniors struggle with food insecurity.

This is of particular concern in the era of COVID-19. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, the availability and affordability of food can impact nearly every aspect of an individual’s health. The pandemic has disrupted senior’s food sources by forcing the closure of community centers and other programs older low-income adults use to access food.

With 28 percent of Americans living without any savings at all, any economic disruption or short-term emergency can make it difficult for individuals — including seniors, who often live on fixed-incomes — to obtain enough food to eat.

With aging comes dietary changes that require a higher intake of nutrients such as protein and calcium. Unfortunately, one in two seniors are at risk for malnutrition related to difficulty chewing and swallowing, losses or changes in appetite, and physical or mental health challenges.

Eating nutrient specific foods creates a financial burden on senior households who are already living with income constraints. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, also known as the senior box program, was created by the USDA to meet the specific dietary needs of the senior population.

Congress appropriated $222.891 million for CSFP in fiscal year 2019 in order to provide this box at no cost to participants. The program is available in all 50 states to individuals living at or below 130 percent of the Federal Poverty line.

The Foodbank, Inc. distributes 1,020 boxes to seniors in Montgomery and Greene counties at 18 different distribution sites. To enroll in the senior box program, prospective recipients must fill out an application and meet the income requirements, both of which can be found on our website.

The pandemic has had a detrimental effect on families across the world, so it was no surprise to us when applications for the CSFP program came pouring in. Food banks have a limited caseload of seniors they are able to serve through this program each month. We reached our capacity for this program on March 12, 2020.

Once the program reaches capacity, we are still able to take applications and place them on a waitlist. As spots open up, they are filled on a first-come-first-serve basis. At the time of writing this post, there are still 95 people on the CSFP waitlist.

People who are waitlisted or declined from the program are still eligible to receive food through other Foodbank programs, however. We regularly refer individuals to their local pantry, Mobile Farmers Market, or our Drive Thru Food Pantry when they are not yet able to or not eligible to receive a CSFP box. We also bring boxes of non-federal food to our senior food box distributions so nobody goes home without something to eat.

Another federal program that benefits seniors is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps. SNAP is available to all adults who meet income guidelines of 130 percent of the federal poverty limit, or $12,760 annually for a household of one.

SNAP is an especially valuable tool in the fight against food insecurity because it allows recipients to have purchasing power. A senior who has specific dietary restrictions is able to purchase the food they need directly at the store. This approach has economic benefits as well: every $1 provided through SNAP generates $1.50-$1.80 in economic activity, according to 2019 calculations from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (2018 data).

However, there are particular challenges to using SNAP to combat hunger among our seniors. Participation in this program for adults over the age of 60 is particularly low. To apply for SNAP, potential recipients must use a phone or computer, print off and mail an application, or be able to find application assistance with a local agency.

Due in part to these obstacles, it is estimated that only 2 in 5 eligible seniors participate in the program, according to the National Council on Aging.

SNAP utilization rates are much lower for older adults in Ohio.

In addition to the barriers to apply, seniors who receive SNAP benefits must visit the grocery store to use them. This presents a risk of exposure to COVID-19 for vulnerable seniors, and can also be difficult for older adults who do not have transportation or who are living with a disability. About one in three food insecure seniors are disabled.

While all individuals who are food insecure face an increased risk of certain health outcomes, seniors face a unique situation. According to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), older adults living with food insecurity experience increased rates of a myriad of health problems, including asthma, congestive heart failure, hypertension, malnutrition, depression, and obesity resulting from consuming high-calorie/low nutrient food.

Older adults, who often live on fixed incomes and struggle with high medical costs, also utilize a number of dangerous coping mechanisms to stretch their budget, including forgoing necessary medications and preventative medical treatment, leading to higher medical costs and worse health in the long term.

Data from FRAC shows that older adults who are food insecure are much more likely to stretch their household budget by rationing or discontinuing prescribed medications.

Are you or somebody you know in need of assistance? The following resources may help:

  • For more information about our CSFP Program, contact Katie Ly, Programs Manager, at KLy@thefoodbankdayton.org and 937-461-0265 x33, or Yiselle Heredia, Data Entry/CSFP Specialist at YHeredia@thefoodbankdayton.org and 937-461-0265 x19
  • The Foodbank holds Mobile Farmers Markets in many locations in the community. Visit our website to view our schedule.
  • Anyone in need of food assistance may also visit our weekly onsite drive thru. Hours can be found on our website as well as our social media channels
  • For SNAP application assistance, contact Colette Looney, SNAP Coordinator, at CLooney@thefoodbankdayton.org and 937-461-0265 x37

 


The Social Determinants of Health: Connecting the dots between race, health equity, and the food landscape

The Social Determinants of Health: Connecting the dots between race, health equity, and the food landscape

How racial differences in food access contribute to poorer health outcomes for communities of color

By: Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager and Emily Gallion, Grant & Advocacy Manager

You may have seen headlines recently that Black communities are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. Nationally, Black individuals account for about double the proportion of the COVID-19 death toll as the portion of the overall population they represent.

Some public health officials have received criticism for suggesting that the correlation is primarily due to higher rates of obesity and other chronic diseases among the Black community. However, the relationship between chronic diseases, race, poverty, and food insecurity is much more complicated, and it has everything to do with the social determinants of health.

While “social determinants of health” may seem to be a relatively new term in the public health space, it was used as early as 2004 by the World Health Organization (WHO), which defines it as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.” 

The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) has also recognized the social determinants of health, defining it as “life-enhancing resources, such as food supply, housing, economic and social relationships, transportation, education, and health care, whose distribution across populations effectively determines length and quality of life.” 

A growing body of research suggests that these resources can have a profound effect on an individual’s health – even the length of their life – and that the unequal distribution of these resources contributes to inequity in the healthcare system.

We at The Foodbank are not experts in public health. However, we do have a responsibility to stay knowledgeable about the way food insecurity intersects with other aspects of people’s wellbeing. In fact, food insecurity is closely linked to health outcomes later in life.

While the terms “food insecurity” and “hunger” are sometimes used interchangeably, “hunger” refers to the physical feeling associated with a lack of food, but food insecurity, defined as the ability to obtain enough food to live a healthy, active lifestyle, is a much more complex issue. 

As such, not all people experiencing food insecurity are necessarily starving, and many experience higher-than-average rates of obesity. This may be due to the survival strategy of purchasing cheaper, calorie-dense foods to meet basic dietary needs. Over time, this contributes to issues such as obesity, and heart disease.

According to Feeding America’s Hunger in America 2014 study, over one in five Feeding America households report having to choose between purchasing food and paying for medical expenses every month

Food insecurity and poor health outcomes also contribute to a cycle of poverty and poor health, which keeps families trapped in patterns that can last generations. Many Feeding America households report having to choose between buying food and paying for medical care. Coping mechanisms such as underusing medications, avoiding preventative care, and failure to adhere to a medically-necessary diet (such as for treatment for diabetes) can lead to higher medical costs and poorer health in the long-term.

As people return to work, concerns of food security are still highly prevalent. Ohio food insecurity rates have doubled due to the coronavirus, jumping from 13.9% to 23%. We saw that same trend here at The Foodbank with visits to our drive thru pantry. About 2,000 families came to visit us in February and 4,684 came in March. Our numbers continued to rise throughout April, finishing out at over 8,000 families.

According to the Dayton Daily News, one in seven Ohioans are still unemployed. Many families are still focusing on trying to pay rent, mortgages, and other bills, leaving little to no room for a food budget. At our June 6 mass distribution in Greene County, we saw 667 families. What is unique about this distribution is that of those families, 521 were new to the food assistance network. This tells us that although many businesses have been able to reopen, people are still seeing emergencies everyday as a result of the pandemic.

Another often-cited contributor to health outcomes is food access, namely, whether an individual lives in a food desert. An area is defined as a food desert if it is high-poverty with no neighborhood supermarket. (The USDA includes several levels to this definition, which include the percent of individuals with access to transportation, the percent of people living in poverty, and even an area’s rural or urban classification.)

Food access and food insecurity are distinct as food insecurity refers to an individual’s ability to afford food (a function of poverty) whereas food access refers to an individual’s ability to obtain food (a function of environment and geography, which is also a function of poverty). Somebody with low food insecurity may live down the block from a supermarket, but still be unable to afford food, while somebody living in a food desert may be able to afford healthy food, but have no grocery stores nearby.

Living in a food desert is associated with similar health outcomes as food insecurity, including substantially increased risks of obesity and diabetes. Families living in food deserts are often forced to shop at corner markets and convenience stores, which typically offer limited, high-cost, or low-quality selections of fresh produce and protein items.

Food access and food equity go hand-in-hand because areas that are USDA-recognized food deserts are disproportionately communities of color and high-poverty areas. While food access is inherently regional, research from the New York Law School Racial Justice Project has estimated that Black and Latino households are half as likely and one-third as likely to have access to a supermarket, respectively.

A screencap of the USDA’s Food Access Atlas, which shows geographic regions that are low income (LI) and low food access (LA) at varying distances from the supermarket. The Foodbank’s service territory is outlined in black.

In addition to food access issues, food insecurity itself is also racialized. In the United states, 21.2% of Black households, 16.2% of Hispanic households and 10.2% of other/non-hispanic households were food insecure in 2018, compared to 8.1% of white households.

So, what does all of this have to do with COVID-19?

While it may be simple to explain the correlation between race and COVID-19 deaths as due to obesity rates — implicitly blaming victims for overeating — this ignores the reality that many people in high-poverty, predominantly black areas face factors beyond their control that contribute to poor health, such as an inability to afford healthy food or an inability to travel to obtain it.

In fact, a June 10 working paper by MIT researchers found that even after controlling for income level, health insurance coverage, rates of chronic disease such as obesity and diabetes, and public transit usage, counties with higher numbers of Black residents had higher rates of COVID-19 infections.

According to Chris Knittel, the study’s senior author, we have to look beyond these simple explanations to understand why the Black community is facing such a high toll in the COVID-19 crisis.

“The causal mechanism has to be something else,” said Knittel. “If I were a public official, I’d be looking at differences in the quality of insurance, conditions such as chronic stress, and systemic discrimination.”

To see the actions we are taking to promote equitable access to food in our service area, view our impact statement here.

If you’re curious about more of our network data or other social issues such as these, follow us @thefoodbankinc on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and Linkedin!


Recipe: Firecracker Chickpea “Meat” Balls

Recipe: Firecracker Chickpea “Meat” Balls

By: Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager, and Emily Gallion, Grant & Advocacy Manager

We received a BEANormous amount of garbanzo beans this year! To make these legumes more apPEAling, we’ve beens haring recipes with our clients to help them keep their dinner menus fresh. A Pinterest user shared this awesome recipe using garbanzo beans and we wanted to pass it along! If you try it out, let us know in the comments below.

Firecracker Chickpea “Meat” Balls

Yields about 16 meatballs, serving 4 people

“Meat” Balls

  • 1 can (14 ounces) of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or oil of your choice
  • Black pepper to taste

 

Firecracker Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce, vinegar based
  • 1/2 cup organic brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup room temperature water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

 

“Meat” Ball Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Combine chickpeas, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, soy sauce, paprika, cumin, and black pepper into food processor
  3. Pulse food processor unitl ingredients are finely chopped. Be careful to not overblend!
  4. Lightly oil a baking sheet and roll bean mixture into balls
  5. Arrange balls on the baking sheet and brush with oil
  6. Bake meatballs for about 30 minutes, turning thema. bout halfway through, until browned

 

Firecracker Sauce Instructions

  1. Whisk cornstarch and cold water together in a small bowl
  2. Stir other ingredients together in saucepan
  3. Set the pan over medium head
  4. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes
  5. Stir in the cornstarch mixture while simmering until the mixture thickens up
  6. Serve over top meatballs and top with chives

A Statement from The Foodbank Team

A Statement from The Foodbank Team

 

When we moved to our current location in 2013, we intentionally chose a building located in zip code 45417 — a predominantly black neighborhood in Dayton with some of the highest poverty rates in the area — because we believe we should work alongside the people we serve. Our diversity statement is “The Foodbank values all people without judgement.”

In keeping with that statement, we deliberately hire and cultivate a diverse staff that includes people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, and people from various other backgrounds. We actively recruit team members who have previously been incarcerated. About one third of our current Foodbank team joined this hunger relief work after exiting the criminal justice system.

To learn more about the work we do, read our impact statement here.


COVID-19 Update: Continuing our relief efforts in a still-uncertain economy

 

COVID-19 Update: Continuing our relief efforts in a still-uncertain economy

How we’re coping with long lines and evolving challenges at The Foodbank

By: Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager and Emily Gallion, Grant and Advocacy Manager

In our March 20 blog post about COVID-19, posted two days before Governor Mike Dewine’s initial stay-at-home order, we discussed the safety measures we implemented and speculated on the impact of the pandemic on families in our lines. Two months and 3.7 million pounds of food later, it appears we too underestimated the negative impact this virus would have on the food system, our partner agencies, and the families we serve..

If you’ve been following the news, you’ve seen the abrupt and drastic increase in demand we’ve seen here at The Foodbank. Although we knew the COVID-19 crisis would devastate communities in our lines, we could never have prepared for the extent to which it would impact our own operations.

While much has changed since our last blog post, many measures remain in place. We are still not accepting volunteers from the public or food drive donations. While this was an incredibly difficult decision to make, we feel an enormous amount of responsibility because we are at the heart of the charitable food network in three counties. We cannot risk an outbreak at our headquarters.

One thing that has not changed has been the overwhelming demand we are seeing at our distributions. Traffic at our on-site drive thru has reached an all-time high. Last summer, attendance at our Drive Thru set a new record the month after the 2019 Memorial Day tornado outbreak with 3,515 households served. Last month, we served almost double that.

In the month of April, we served a total of 6,912 households — 19,498 individuals — at our on-site Drive Thru food pantry.

The most dramatic increase we have seen, however, is in the number of individuals accessing food assistance for the first time. Through the month of March, the percent of new households at our Drive Thru increased from less than 10 percent to a high of 68 percent.

To ensure that everyone was able to be served, we made the difficult decision to limit the number of times a household could visit the Drive Thru to once per month. We have never had to limit visits to our Drive Thru in this manner before.

At that time, we were seeing demand steadily increasing at the same time as many of our main sources of food procurement, such as food drives and grocery store donations, dwindled or were stopped completely. Fortunately, we were able to lift that limit this month and are now able to serve people as often as they need to feed their families three healthy meals a day.

While Dayton is our home base, we serve Greene and Preble counties as well. To ensure that everyone in our area is able to access food, we have been organizing mass food distributions in those counties so that individuals who are unable to make it to Dayton can still get the food they need.

We have already held mass distributions in Preble County at Henny Penny and in Greene County at the Wright State Nutter Center. At our Preble County distribution, we served 709 households, about 400 more than we usually see at our annual Preble County mass distribution. At our Greene County distribution, we served 1,381 households, the largest food distribution we have held in our 40 years of service.

 

Mobile Pantries

When concerns of COVID-19 first started arising, we made the difficult decision to suspend our mobile pantries until further notice. This was extremely hard for us as the mobiles are critical in providing food directly to communities most in need without access to a local food pantry.

As of June 1, we are excited to announce that we are bringing our mobile pantries back! In order to follow Stay Safe Ohio guidelines, we have set some new rules regarding mobiles.

Clients are asked to wear a mask if they have one and stay six feet apart when visiting our locations in order to stay within social distancing guidelines. Additionally, we are limiting pick ups to two households per person. We always suggest bringing your own cart or additional means of carrying potentially heavy items.

The schedule is being released on a month-by-month basis to ensure proper safety precautions are able to be put in place. You can find the schedule at thefoodbankdayton.org/needfood as well as our social media pages.

 

Partner Agencies

While we have received a lot of attention for our Drive Thru and Mass Distributions, our primary mission remains the acquisition and distribution of food to our partner agencies. We have been offering expanded Drive Thru hours and mass distributions to supplement the services of our partner agencies, many of which have been forced to close due to the COVID-19 crisis.

At present, only 75 of our 110 partner agencies are still open. The others have been forced to close due to a variety of reasons, such as the closure of their parent organization or concerns for their own volunteers. Because so many of our pantries, hot meal sites, and other partners rely on volunteers who are advanced in age, many of them have had to make the difficult decision to close down operations to protect their own.

Despite these closures, our network is still serving an extremely high number of clients. In April, we served a total of 94,651 individuals. With agency closures taken into consideration, our agencies that are open are serving over twice as many individuals as this time last year.

Agencies that remain open are serving an average of 1,262 individuals a month, over twice as many as this time last year.

The uptick in demand coincides with a rise in unemployment as businesses close or pare down operations to prevent the spread of illness and comply with social distancing measures. Over the course of the pandemic, the number of applications for unemployment has reached 10% of the population of Ohio. Local Department of Jobs and Family Services offices have been completely overwhelmed, leading to wait periods in which furloughed and laid off workers are not able to receive benefits.

We’ve known for a long time how many American workers are living precariously close to poverty. According to AARP, over half of US households do not have an emergency savings account. While workers experiencing this delay between their loss of income and unemployment benefits will be eligible for retroactive pay,

 

Up next

The Foodbank recently announced its participation in the USDA Farmers to Families box program. We are excited to participate in this program, which will dramatically increase the amount of food we are able to provide to individuals in our service area.

Farmers to Families is a food box program announced April 19 as part of the Coronavirus Farm Assistance program. Through this program, the USDA will purchase pre packaged boxes of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products for direct distribution to households in our community.

Through the Farmers to Families Food Box program, the USDA will authorize purchases of up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat.

For our part, we will be receiving and distributing 30,000 boxes of food every month through our direct service programs and partner agencies. In total, this will amount to 750,000 pounds of food, or about 625,000 additional meals to people affected by the pandemic.

 

Where in the world is The Foodbank, Inc.?

We have been incredibly lucky during this time to receive national recognition from several news sources.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show: https://www.ellentube.com/video/allison-janney-goes-digging-in-drawer-dash.html?fbclid=IwAR1nl7iVicJJ9azy5eN6QT8fWwFC24u65JHVuL9f8sAIp6SaP7kxm_teeGY

The Washington Post:The next threat: Hunger in America

TIME: “’It’s a Bucket Brigade on a 5-Alarm Fire.’ Food Banks Struggle to Keep Up With Skyrocketing Demand”

ABC News Nightline:Inside 2 massive food banks feeding families affected by COVID-19

Dayton Daily News:Coronavirus: Thousands show up for Greene County food distribution


Foodbanking in the time of COVID-19

Foodbanking in the time of COVID-19

Pandemics disproportionately affect the people in our lines. Here’s what we’re doing to help.

By: Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager, and Emily Gallion, Grant and Advocacy Manager

Last week, concerns about COVID-19, a form of coronavirus, reached a fever pitch as the Ohio Department of Health announced the state’s first three positive cases. Since then, efforts to contain the pandemic led to school closings, orders to limit public gatherings, and even the suspension of voting in the state of Ohio. 

For weeks, the health and well-being of our clients, staff, and volunteers has been at the forefront of our minds as we monitor the spread of this pandemic. We have had to make very difficult choices to suspend or modify many of our offsite services, but we are making every possible effort to make sure our clients have access to the food they need.

In these trying times, we would like to commend the leadership of Governor Mike DeWine, who has made strong moves to limit the spread of the virus. Many early actions, including the closures of schools, bars, and restaurants, have provided a model for other states trying to respond to the epidemic. We are glad to see our leaders taking this virus seriously.

Background on COVID-19

COVID-19 is a form of coronavirus, a family of viruses that are zoonotic, or transmitted between animals and people. Coronaviruses have been responsible for deadly outbreaks in the past, including MERS and SARS, but COVID-19 is a new strand thought to have originated from bats. Many initial infections were traced to a large market in Wuhan, China.

Seniors and people with pre-existing conditions are at a heightened risk of becoming seriously ill as a result of this disease, but people of any age can become sick with or transmit the virus. According to the CDC, early data suggests that seniors are twice as likely to have a serious illness because of the virus.

This reality became chillingly clear when COVID-19 swept through a nursing home in a Seattle suburb, causing the deaths of 18 residents. Older adults are at an increased risk due to weakened immune systems and the increased likelihood of pre-existing conditions. The National Council on Aging stated that “age increases the risk that the respiratory system or lungs will shut down when an older person has COVID-19 disease.”

Families with small children can take comfort in the fact that, unlike influenza, COVID-19 does not seem to cause a serious threat to children. In fact, children and young adults are more likely to carry the disease with no symptoms at all. However, these populations should still take part in healthy practices as they could transmit it to someone else who may not have a strong immune system.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to that of the flu virus and the common cold. Both viruses are potentially dangerous to high-risk populations, and individuals who experience difficulty breathing should seek emergency treatment regardless of known COVID-19 exposure.

What does this mean for people in our lines?

One risk factor for the disease may not be immediately apparent: Analysis of past disease outbreaks, such as influenza, reveals that pandemics often disproportionately affect people who are living in poverty. 

One study of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak found that, in Oaklahoma, 26 percent of white individuals who contracted the virus needed hospitalization, compared to 55 percent of black patients and 37 percent of indigenous patients. 

In many ways, this is common sense: People with low incomes are more likely to work part-time jobs that do not offer benefits such as paid sick leave and healthcare. People living in poverty and people of color are also more likely to live in areas with high population density, which increases the likelihood that they will be infected.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than one third of private-sector employees in the lowest wage category have access to paid sick leave

Luckily, employees whose employment is affected by the outbreak may be eligible for additional unemployment relief. This will be especially important for employees of the restaurants, gyms, bars, and other businesses that have been ordered to close. 

Workers who are required to self-isolate will be eligible for unemployment benefits even if they do not test positive for the virus. Many restrictions on unemployment benefits, including the usual waiting period for benefits to kick in, have also been waived.

Workers who need to apply for unemployment benefits can file online at unemployment.ohio.gov

This pandemic is a stark reminder that almost half of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, which means a loss of income due to quarantines or business closures can be catastrophic. It also decreases these households’ ability to stockpile food, water, and other necessities.

School closures are also incredibly disruptive to families’ day to day life, as workers who cannot afford childcare may be forced to stay home. Closing schools can also impact children’s cognitive development at an extremely crucial stage in life.

Encouragingly, many school districts have already begun to offer carryout school meals. Governor Mike DeWine confirmed on March 13 that the United States Department of Agriculture approved Ohio’s waiver to allow carryout meals in school.

So, what are we doing about all of this?

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, it may be difficult trying to follow the constant news updates and safety precautions. At The Foodbank, people are the most important resource, so it is our duty to ensure that we are serving our vulnerable populations in the safest way possible. 

Unfortunately, the spread of COVID-19 has a tremendous impact both on the population we serve and our own operations.

Due to Governor Mike DeWine’s orders of limiting public gatherings to less than 100 people, we had to make the difficult decision to cancel our mobile food pantries for the time being. Clients are actively being guided towards our weekly drive thru pantries.

To meet any additional needs due to the cancellation of our mobiles, we have expanded our drive thru operations to running three times a week. Additionally, we moved to serving families once a month in effort to keep up with high demand. 

Since the outbreak of the virus, our drive thru went from serving an average of 350 families per day to over 400 per day. As news changes by the day, we are always looking for ways to update our services with the community’s safety in mind.

We have made the decision to target low-income seniors with this box program because they are the population at highest risk for death or serious illness as a result of this virus. We also know that many of our seniors are homebound or on a fixed income, which makes it more difficult for them to visit the supermarket or stockpile emergency supplies. 

Because we have had to suspend offsite distributions of our CSFP boxes, we have added additional drive thru distributions to serve those clients directly at our warehouse. Seniors enrolled in the program can visit our drive thru March 24 or March 26 between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm to pick up both their senior food boxes and their additional COVID-19 emergency boxes.

If you are looking for a way to help out, The Foodbank is still actively seeking volunteers. We currently have an increased need due to high demand in the drive thru and the volume of emergency boxes we are trying to package.

If you want to volunteer at The Foodbank, please make an appointment prior by calling (937) 461-0265 x31. We are enacting several safety measures to protect our volunteers, staff, and clients, including:

  • Limiting walk-in traffic to The Foodbank by locking our doors
  • Taking the temperature of all volunteers and staff who enter our building
  • Requiring all volunteers to wash their hands prior to the start of their shift
  • Asking volunteers and staff not to bring outside food into the building
  • Asking any volunteers over the age of 60 to stay home

Thank you donors!

It is always heartening to see our community come together at difficult times such as that. We would like to extend our thanks to the people who have volunteered or donated in the past several weeks. In times like this, every little bit counts.

We would especially like to thank Caresource, who committed $128,000 in funding to provide additional food boxes to our at-risk seniors currently enrolled in our CSFP program. This funding will be used to prepare 1,200 boxes, each of which will contain enough food to last 14 days. We hope these boxes, which we are currently building and distribute, will help this high-risk population practice social distancing in the coming weeks.

To follow along with The Foodbank’s response efforts, follow us on our social media channels @thefoodbankinc and our website for further updates. 


Food insecurity persists in rural America as economic recovery is slow to appear

Food insecurity persists in rural America as economic recovery is slow to appear

High unemployment, declining populations, and a lack of public transportation contribute to the rural-urban divide.

Written by: Emily Gallion, Grants & Advocacy Manager and Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager

In our cities, we see hunger every day. It looks like a huddle of people waiting for a pantry to open, or cracked hands holding a cardboard sign asking for money for food. It can even look like boards on the windows of a neighborhood’s last remaining grocery store.

Of the top 10 percent of US counties with the highest rates of food insecurity, 76 percent are rural. On average, 15 percent of households living in rural areas are food insecure, compared to 11.8 percent of people living in urban counties.

American economic recovery has made headlines recently: the national unemployment rate has dropped to 3.6% and the Dow Jones has reached record highs. However, economic growth has been patchy. While employment rates in metropolitan areas have surpassed pre-2008 levels, rural areas have not yet recovered.

While employment in metropolitan areas is 10 percent higher than it was in 2007, data from the Economic Research Service shows non metro areas still have not reached pre-recession levels.

The Foodbank serves three counties: Montgomery, Greene, and Preble. Montgomery County is considered an urban (or metropolitan) county. Preble County is a designated rural county. Greene County contains a mix of urban clusters and rural areas, and as a result is often categorized as a suburban or small-town county. Because rural-urban designations are made at the county level, overarching data can sometimes obscure the realities of the people who live in communities within them.

Within Preble county, 12% of adults and 18.8% of children are food insecure, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap. Households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity in general, but the trend is especially pronounced in rural communities.

A common theme when discussing rural hunger is the low population density and associated lack of resources. Rural areas have also seen population decreases as individuals move away- often termed “domestic migration.” While metropolitan areas experienced a population growth of over 6 percent from 2010 to 2018, according to American Community Survey data, the most rural areas saw decreases of almost 2 percent, which contributes to the ability of local businesses to remain open.

As a result of these population trends, in addition to difficulty affording food, people who are living in poverty in non-metropolitan areas often report challenges accessing food as grocery stores struggle to remain open.

Data from the Economic Revenue Service shows trends of employment and population growth in rural and urban areas

According to The Ohio State University’s Center for Farmland Policy Innovation (CFPI), 24 percent of residents of rural Ohio have to drive at least 10 minutes to purchase food from a retailer — including convenience stores and other sellers that rarely provide an adequate selection of fresh food. Stores in this category that do sell fresh food have a reputation for doing so at inflated prices.

Additionally, not every household living within driving distance of a retail grocery store has the means to get to it. Of the households living within driving distance from a store, five percent do not own a car, and public transportation is extremely uncommon in non-metro areas.

For example, our clients living in Lewisburg must make the 11 minute drive to a grocery store in Brookville, or even 15 minutes to one in Eaton. However, if you do not have a car then you are left with options from the local convenience store in town, because there is no public transportation available.

Grocery stores are not the only resources that are sparse in rural counties. Nearly one million children living in Ohio’s rural counties live with no access to a pediatrician. This translates to one in three children who have to travel at least 40 minutes to the nearest provider. According to American Community Survey data, 152,000 Ohio children live in a home without a vehicle.

This is especially concerning given the impact food insecurity can have on children’s health. Children who are food insecure face increased rates of obesity, more frequent colds and stomach aches, behavioral health problems, and even developmental problems. Coupled with increased distances from healthcare providers, food insecurity is potentially dangerous for these children.

Knowing the impact food insecurity can have on the health of both children and adults, The Foodbank has taken steps in recent years to increase the availability of food in the rural areas we serve. While we are located in Dayton, we are constantly trying to expand our reach.

In fiscal year 2017, our pantries served a total of 5,056 clients in Preble county. At the close of our most recent fiscal year, we had increased that number to 11,151.

Another program we are using to meet this need is our Mobile Farmers Markets, which distribute fresh food directly in areas we identify as high need. We host four distributions in Preble County each month. This February, our mobiles served 1,157 people in Preble county alone.

For more information on our mobiles, come back for our next blog post about our Mobile Farmers Markets. Have suggestions for what posts you want to see in the future? Learn something cool today? Let us know in the comments below!


Composting begins at The Foodbank

Composting begins at The Foodbank

The finished product will be used in our urban garden, which provides educational opportunities for our community while relieving hunger in our area.

Written by: Emily Gallion, Grants & Advocacy Manager and Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager

Over 20 percent of the material in municipal landfills is food. According to the EPA, food waste is the greatest single contributor to solid waste nationwide. While food waste can easily be repurposed into compost, only a fraction – about 6 percent – is put to use in this manner.

It is troubling to see such excessive food waste and food insecurity exist side-by-side. It is estimated that one third of food produced for human consumption is never eaten, and a significant amount of food is wasted for superficial reasons: for example, retailers often cannot sell fruits and veggies that are misshapen, the wrong size, or otherwise unattractive. Meanwhile, in our own community, 116,720 people are living with food insecurity.

Hunger relief organizations such as The Foodbank are in a unique position to address this issue. By “rescuing” food that would otherwise go to waste, we can reduce solid waste while also providing healthy food to those who need it. Food rescue from retailers accounted for 3.5 million pounds of food distributed by The Foodbank in 2019.

Our spoilage rates are incredibly low. Last year, we only lost about 1 percent of the food we acquired. However, considering that we distributed over 16 million pounds of food last year, even 1 percent can make a significant impact. Meanwhile, we were also buying compost for our urban garden and paying for carts to remove food waste from our property. We knew we could do better.

Compost during the stirring process; photo by Tom Greene of Dayton Times Magazine

Many people associate composting with bins of decomposing food — a smelly process that can take upwards of three months. Thanks to generous support from the Ohio EPA, Kroger, Central State University, and a private donor, The Foodbank was able to purchase an in-vessel continuous flow composting unit from Green Mountain Technologies, a US-based company whose mission is helping organizations like us reduce their environmental footprint.

For an organization such as The Foodbank, there are several opportunities associated with composting. The amount of food waste we produce is highly variable, and sometimes we only have a very small quantity of food to dispose of at one time. Odors were a major concern for us, as our garden is often visited by volunteers and children on field trips, and we absolutely could not run the risk of attracting pests – a major food safety hazard.

The unit, constructed from a recycled shipping container, shelters food waste from pests and harsh weather while creating the optimal conditions for composting. A metal auger stirs the compost, exposing it to oxygen and pushing waste through the unit. The consistent temperature and exposure to air means that the compost is finished after 14-21 days, after which it must “cure” in a separate location for 30-60 days.

This continuous-flow model is unique because it is able to move product through the container automatically. In traditional composting, food waste must be processed in large batches, but this is not feasible for food banks, which experience fluctuations in the volume of food waste produced. This unit allows us to add smaller quantities of food each day without disturbing existing compost.

Metal auger stirring compost; photo by Tom Greene of Dayton Times Magazine

While The Foodbank’s mission centers on hunger relief, food banks are in a unique position to address the issue of food waste. There is also a dual benefit associated with the acquisition of the new composter as well: the compost produced can benefit our on-site urban garden. Last year, the garden produced over three tons of fresh produce. 

In addition to producing food for our clients, the garden provides us an opportunity to educate our community. Last year, over 400 students visited our garden. The children we see are primarily low income students from neighboring areas, which are largely urban with limited green space.

The composter will allow us to offer additional educational opportunities to the community. And while our composter is a commercial-grade system made from a large shipping container, composting can be done at any scale in any environment. 

Most of our neighbors live in apartment buildings or houses with very small yards — not ideal environments for large gardens or large shipping containers of compost. Our urban garden has allowed us to teach the community how to use alternative ways of gardening, and we plan to teach alternative ways of composting as well.

Apple represents location of The Foodbank

In addition to the educational advantages of having a composter on site, there is another advantage: the bottom line. In 2018, we spent $8,000 on trash service to dispose of spoiled food, but we were also purchasing compost from other sources for use in the garden. We anticipate seeing a cost savings of $10,000 just from producing our own compost.

We hope to be able to use the unit as a potential revenue stream within the next few years by accepting food waste from other organizations and turning it into a salable product. 

The Foodbank is constantly looking for innovative practices to help us better the community. We are currently one of the only food banks in the nation with its own in-vessel composter. As our program continues to grow, we hope that our successes and failures can serve as a model for how we all can better manage waste.

Visitors are always welcome and encouraged. Contact our Master Gardener James Hoffer at 937-461-0265 ext. 20 or JHoffer@thefoodbankdayton.org to Turnip the Beet with us!


What is the deal with trade mitigation?

What’s the deal with trade mitigation?

The Foodbank receives agricultural surpluses resulting from the Trump Administration’s $1.4 billion Food Purchase and Distribution Program. Here’s what we do with it.

Written by: Emily Gallion, Grant & Advocacy Manger and Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager

Hunger relief programs nationwide are familiar with The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides a significant amount of food to charitable programs. However, many people are unfamiliar with the program, how it supports food assistance programs, and what impact current events have on the availability of food. We hope the following post will shed some light on the role of TEFAP in The Foodbank’s operations.

In 2018, the Trump administration and the United States Department of Agriculture launched a trade mitigation plan to help farmers affected by trade tariffs enforced by China. This package falls under TEFAP, a larger federal program that purchases unsold food and redistributes it to food assistance programs. This program was launched in 1981 to compensate farmers for agricultural surpluses that were going unsold.

TEFAP food is allocated based upon the number of people living below the poverty line in each state, then sent to food banks, which in turn distribute the product to agencies such as soup kitchens, shelters, and food pantries. Because TEFAP is a federal program, there are special restrictions on which agencies can receive this food. These restrictions vary by state. In Ohio, agencies must attend a civil rights training and complete food safety training, and over half of the population they serve must live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty limit.

While the purpose of the program is to provide support to American farmers, it also provides a significant portion of The Foodbank’s food. In fiscal year 2019, TEFAP product accounted for 22 percent of all food we distributed.

When the 2018 trade mitigation program was first implemented, it designated $1.2 billion to purchase apples, pork, potatoes, and dairy products. On May 2019, those funds were increased to $1.4 billion for the current fiscal year. The Foodbank and other food banks nationwide are receiving additional TEFAP product as a result. Though TEFAP food is just one of the ways we receive our product, trade mitigation has had a significant impact on the types and amount of food we distribute. 

Food we receive through this program is often fresh produce, protein product, and other healthy foods, such as beans and rice. Last year, we received especially high quantities of beans, pork, apples, peanut butter, and fresh milk. In fiscal year 2019, The Foodbank, Inc. distributed over 16 million pounds of food, which was 25 percent more than the previous year. (Many factors outside of TEFAP allocations play a hand in this statistic, including activity related to the Memorial Day tornado outbreak.)

Below is a graph depicting the increase in TEFAP food received by The Foodbank, Inc. before and after the mitigation package was launched. This data reflects all TEFAP food designated as “bonus/other” by our inventory system, which includes some product that is not purchased through trade mitigation, but trade mitigation is ultimately responsible for the upward trend. Despite the fact that we are just over halfway through our fiscal year, we have received almost as much food in this category as last year.

 

*FY20 data reflects food received through mid-January

The trade mitigation program provides a bounty of fresh food, especially high-demand products such as fresh meat. However, the influx of perishable food can pose unique challenges, especially when we receive large quantities of a single product, such as the over 61,000 pounds of garbanzo beans we received this fall.

Turning over redundant loads of product can be difficult, so we have to find solutions to encourage our agencies to pick up trade mitigation product or find additional storage. The increase in trade mitigation product is one of the driving reasons we are currently ordering more shelving. We have also had success with more creative methods of distribution with our own direct service programs, especially our on-site Drive Thru.

The Foodbank’s Drive Thru opened Summer 2018 with funding from Dayton Power and Light. The format has several advantages. First and foremost, it enables clients with mobility issues to obtain food without having to leave their vehicles or carry heavy boxes. We also envisioned it as a way for clients who have already received their maximum allotment from other pantries in our network, which often place limits on the number of times a household can visit in a month.

However, because our Drive Thru is built into our warehouse, it has also proven an important mechanism for distributing products we receive in large quantities. The Drive Thru has become an integral part of our hunger relief strategy. Last fiscal year, the Drive Thru had an attendance of 33,463 people. The Drive Thru was especially critical to our response to the recent tornado outbreak: our monthly attendance reached an all time high of 9,085 people served in June, the month following the disaster – over 5,000 greater than the previous month.

The USDA has not announced a trade mitigation plan for the next fiscal year. As an emergency relief organization, we are always preparing for an ever changing environment and will remain alert to adapt to future changes.