Recipe: Easy Lettuce Wraps

Recipe: Easy Lettuce Wraps

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

Occasionally we hear from students in the Miami Valley who want to collaborate with us on different school projects. This recipe is coming to you from Centerville High School Senior Megan Fahrenkamp, who collaborated with us on a cookbook for her Girl Scout Gold Award.

The cookbook was created using foods we hand out here at The Foodbank, encouraging families to be creative with their cooking and reduce food waste. 

Lettuce Wraps (serves 4)

Ingredients

  •     oil (of any kind)
  •     ½ of an onion (of any color)
  •     1 pound/package ground meat
  •     soy sauce
  •     salt
  •     pepper
  •     ½ of a head of lettuce (separated into big leaves)/½ of a bag of lettuce

 Instructions

  1. Separate leaves from lettuce head
  2. Heat oil to medium heat. Wash and dice onion, and cook until translucent.
  3. Add meat and cook until no longer pink.
  4. Season meat and onions with soy sauce, salt, and pepper.

Plating

  1. Wash lettuce and fill the lettuce leaves/top the bagged lettuce with meat mixture and serve. Pairs well with the Fried Rice recipe in this cookbook.

Why We Keep Feeding the Ducks

Why We Keep Feeding the Ducks

Some say of food assistance, “don’t feed the ducks or more will come.” With 30-40% of food going to waste in America, there is more than enough to go around

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

There is a comment we are tired of hearing: “There are a lot of nice cars in your line today.”

On days our Drive Thru Food Pantry is open, a line of cars stretches down the block. Some of these cars are a bit battered, a bit older — this is what somebody might assume the car of a hungry person “should” look like. Some are not.

When people make these comments to us, we remind them that there are a lot of very plausible reasons for a “nice” car to be in our line. Sometimes people pick up food on behalf of friends, families, and neighbors who do not have transportation or are house-bound. Some of our clients borrow cars to get to a food distribution. Some healthcare or social workers pick up food for the people they serve.

Sometimes, one unexpected job loss, sudden health emergency, or natural disaster is all it takes for a family that looks financially stable to need extra help.

But there is another reason we do not spend our time worrying who is in our lines. At The Foodbank, we do not believe that food is a scarce commodity that should be jealously hoarded. There is more than enough to go around. Our job is simply to close the loop in a food system that does not always fairly allocate its resources to those with lower incomes.

Food (Waste) for Thought

According to the US Department of Agriculture, 30-40% of food produced in the US goes to waste. That amounts to about 133 billion pounds of food each year, or 111 billion meals. For context, Feeding America has estimated that the total number of people experiencing food insecurity in the wake of the pandemic is just over 50 million.

As foodbankers, our job is to coordinate the movement of this food from where it is not needed to our 116 partner agencies and our direct service programs, such as the Drive Thru.

To be clear, we do not simply throw food into anyone’s trunk. All clients at our programs and partner agencies must have an income at or below 200% the federal poverty limit (230% during COVID). We track recipients of our food in our client management system, PantryTrak, and report aggregate data to key stakeholders, such as the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

(While clients must meet income guidelines to receive federal food, we do not turn people away. If somebody is at risk of going hungry and does not meet the income guidelines, we are able to give them food as long as it does not include federal and state-purchased food.)

Although we do purchase some food each year, a large portion of the food we distribute is food rescue product we pick up at the back docks of retailers. Otherwise, this food would likely go to waste.

Even the federally purchased food we receive, which must be distributed according to certain guidelines, is often a consequence of our food system. For example, food purchased through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) has included trade mitigation purchases to offset lost sales to China. These programs provide stimulus to farmers while redirecting much-needed food to American households.

In short, food insecurity is not caused by a lack of food in the United States. Food insecurity is really a symptom of a larger problem, which is structural poverty and inequality.

Building an Abundance Mentality

So why are we committed to shifting to a mentality of abundance instead of scarcity? Indeed, many nonprofits fall into this trap of fear-focused messaging because it makes for more compelling fundraising. However, we know that approaching our work with a mindset of scarcity is bad for the people in our lines.

While we know that we will not run out of food, we understand that fear can put those thoughts into the minds of people in crisis, especially for those who are receiving food assistance for the first time. Seeing a long line of cars a mile down the road might make people worry there won’t be enough for someone at the back of the line — we assure you there is no need to worry.

In all fairness, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented set of circumstances. At the end of March, we began to worry about the food supply in our warehouse. As supplies in grocery stores began to dwindle across the country, we wondered what that would mean for our ability to procure food.

In April, we had to place a 30 day service limit on visits to our Drive Thru, something we have never had to do before. Thankfully, by May we were able to lift that service limit and take a deep breath as food sourcing was no longer an issue. We have a slogan here at The Foodbank: “We’ll figure it out.” And we always do.

It is important to note that while we are not constrained by the overall supply of food, our ability to meet the need in our community is dependent on our financial reserves and physical capacity. During the pandemic, we have had to purchase more food and equipment than previous years. Donations are as critical as ever to allow us to keep serving families who need us.

We distributed over 18 million pounds of food last year, and we couldn’t have done it without the backing of our community.

At the end of the day, our job is to continue serving our clients without judgment. It is not up to us to decide how they got to us, as we know hunger does not operate in a silo.

The people in our lines include the single mom who lives next door to you and was already barely making ends meet before the pandemic. It is the elderly man down the street who does not have any family to help him. It is the person who looks like you who is experiencing a financial emergency.

People have told us, “don’t feed the ducks or more will come.”

We say, send the ducks to us. We have plenty of duck food.

 

 


How our Drive Thru Food Pantry became critical to our disaster relief strategy

 How our Drive Thru Food Pantry became critical to our disaster relief strategy

During the pandemic, our Drive Thru has provided a low-contact way for us to offset increased need and partner agency closures

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

JoAnn, who has been visiting The Foodbank’s Drive Thru Food Pantry for two years, says receiving food has helped her stretch her budget and avoid grocery shopping. She has been saving money after being the victim of identity theft earlier this year.

“I didn’t even get my social security check, she said. “I probably would’ve gotten evicted. I didn’t have enough to pay.”

JoAnn, a senior enrolled in our Commodity Supplemental Food Program, is one of over 100,000 people served in our Drive Thru in 2020. The Drive Thru has seen unprecedented numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When our Drive Thru pantry was constructed in 2018, it began as an accessible means for our seniors to pick up their monthly Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP/Senior Box) boxes without having to get out of their car. 

While its purpose has evolved since then, the Drive Thru is still open Thursdays for seniors who are enrolled in the program to pick up their boxes. As this is a federal program administered by The Foodbank, these distributions are not open to the general public. To see if you qualify, visit www.thefoodbankdayton.org/needfood.

The Foodbank’s Drive Thru Food Pantry is funded with the generous support of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and the Dayton Power & Light Foundation.

The Turning Point

The value of the Drive Thru as a disaster relief tool first became apparent after 15 tornadoes ripped through the Dayton area, displacing thousands of people and causing widespread property damage. Over 4,000 people applied for federal disaster assistance in Montgomery County.

Strikingly, the storm hit areas already affected by poverty. In Trotwood, where at least 1,800 residents of an apartment complex were displaced, over 25% of the population lives below the poverty line. At least 750 homes in Trotwood were still vacant as of November 2020.

The day after the storm, we were able to immediately open the Drive Thru to provide aid to people affected. It became a one-stop-shop for people to both drop off donations and pick up the supplies and food they needed. This is where we really started to see the Drive Thru’s potential in supporting our disaster relief efforts.

In the month of June 2019, immediately following the storm, we were able to keep our Drive Thru open five days a week to meet the increased need in our area. We served a total of 9,085 people that month.

A New Type of Disaster

Unknown to us, the tornado outbreak would prove to be a trial run to a more widespread crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When food insecurity rates jumped due to the pandemic, we were able to expand the days our Drive Thru was open to four days per week. These distributions are naturally low-contact and easy to adapt to emergency needs. 

Because the Drive Thru is attached to our warehouse, we need minimal notice to host a food distribution. This was especially critical at the height of the pandemic as only 70 of our 116 partner agencies remained open and serving food. 

We also learned an important lesson about our Drive Thru. While the Drive Thru is intended to supplement the hard work of our partner agencies, people experiencing food insecurity for the first time often come directly to us. Where appropriate, we encourage our direct service clients to call our emergency hotline to be referred to a local pantry that can better serve their needs.

Due to this tendency, the percent of households that were visiting a Foodbank program for the first time was upwards of 70% at some of our Drive Thru distributions.

Drive Thru attendance is still higher than it was this time last year. Note: 2019 increases from June to August are due to the Memorial Day tornado outbreak

Currently, our Drive Thru is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 1-3 pm. As our hours are subject to change, especially during holidays please refer to www.thefoodbankdayton.org/needfood.

If you wish to visit our Drive Thru, please bring a photo ID and understand that you must be living at or below 200% of the federal poverty limit (230% during COVID) to receive food. The most up-to-date eligibility guidelines can be found at the bottom of this page.

Our Drive Thru has proven time and time again to be our most reliable means of getting food on the tables of our community. It has allowed us to provide a sense of security and reliability to families during tornadoes, a pandemic, and everyday emergencies like a higher than usual heat bill.


The Foodbank, Inc. Congratulates Tom Vilsack for Agriculture Secretary Nomination

The Foodbank, Inc. Congratulates Tom Vilsack for Agriculture Secretary Nomination

The Foodbank, Inc congratulates Tom Vilsack on his nomination as Secretary for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) by the Biden-Harris Administration.

Secretary Vilsack’s previous 8 years’ experience as US Secretary of Agriculture under the Obama Administration will serve him well in his forthcoming role. It is our hope that Secretary Vilsack, who received the Food Research Action Center’s 2016 Distinguished Service Award, will apply the power of his position to address issues of food insecurity and nutrition quality throughout the US.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition programs. Without the support of SNAP, The Foodbank, Inc. and other food banks would be unable to meet the rise in hunger in our communities. As the administrator of SNAP and other nutrition programs, the USDA holds the keys to more substantive anti-hunger policies.

We look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack and the Biden-Harris Administration to fulfill our vision that “no one should go hungry.”


Where our food goes

Where our food goes

We distribute food through agencies and programs of all shapes and sizes

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

Last fiscal year we distributed close to 18 million pounds of food. The last time we talked to you, we gave you the rundown of where we get our food from – but where in the world does 18 million pounds of food go? 

Partner Agencies

The heart of The Foodbank’s hunger relief programming is the acquisition and distribution of food to our 116 partner agencies. This is the critical difference between a food bank and a food pantry: While a pantry distributes food to individuals, a food bank’s central mission is to distribute food to other organizations. Without the hard work of our agencies, we could not reach the 935,404 individuals we served last fiscal year.

Partner agencies fall into five categories: pantries, meal sites, congregate programs, emergency shelters, and Kids Cafe meal sites.

Food pantries: Also known as grocery programs, food pantries make up the majority of our partner agencies. A pantry is any program that distributes groceries for clients to prepare at home. Last year, we provided food for 96 such organizations. Our pantries vary widely in size and type, from small church pantries to larger nonprofits that serve thousands each month.

Hot meal sites, congregate programs, and emergency shelters: Sometimes referred to as soup kitchens, hot meal sites include any organization that provides free meals to anyone who needs it. Some emergency shelters, which include domestic violence shelters and temporary housing for people in crisis, also receive food from us. Last fiscal year, we served 22 hot meal sites and shelters.

Kids Cafe meal sites: The Foodbank operates a Kids Cafe program that is administered by a variety of community partners, such as after school programs. The Kids Cafe program serves meals to children in the community. Kids Cafe is a registered trademark of Feeding America.

Drive Thru

The Foodbank operates a Drive Thru Food Pantry to meet the additional needs of our local community. The Drive Thru was originally conceptualized as a way to distribute senior boxes. It has since grown into a service for the greater community.

Visitors to our Drive Thru are entered into our client management system, PantryTrak. Our data, which includes attendance at our direct service programs and partner agencies, is reported on a monthly basis to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. Fluctuations in attendance at our programs can act as a barometer to identify changes in regional food insecurity.

To receive food from the Drive Thru, you must bring a drivers license and have an income at or below 200% (or 230% during the COVID-19 pandemic) of the federal poverty limit.

Food distributed at our Drive Thru is intended to supplement any food received at our partner agencies and through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As such, clients may not receive a complete set of groceries, but will receive a variety of food such as fresh produce, frozen meat, and bakery items.

As of December 2020, The Drive Thru is open Monday thru Wednesday from 1pm to 3pm. Hours are subject to change; check this page for more up to date information.

The Foodbank Mobile Farmers Markets

Every month, The Foodbank’s Mobile Farmers Markets deliver fresh food and produce to 15 locations at high risk for food insecurity. These locations are in areas of high poverty that do not have access to a local food pantry. Many of our clients served by the Mobile Farmer’s Markets are seniors who are homebound.

Our Mobile program also operates on a larger scale when we host Mass Distributions throughout the year. Typically we host three a year: one in Montgomery county, one in Greene county, and one in Preble county. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and an increased need for food across the board, we hosted seven mass distributions this year. Stay tuned to our social media pages for our 2021 Mass Distribution schedule. 

Last year, we distributed 1.8 million pounds of food through our Mobile Farmers Market programs.

To view our mobile schedule, visit https://thefoodbankdayton.org/agencies/needfood/.

Senior Boxes

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, better known as the Senior Box Program, is a federally funded program that provides seniors aged 60 and over a monthly box of food items catered to their dietary needs.

The Foodbank distributes just over 1,000 of these boxes each month at 16 different locations, including our on site drive thru.

For a deep dive on senior hunger, check out our blog post. Senior box qualifications and the application can be found here or by calling 937-461-0265 ext. 17.

Good to Go Backpacks

These meal packs are given to food insecure children who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches during the week, but are at risk of going hungry on weekends.

Students who are enrolled in this program receive a pack of healthy, kid friendly food that is discreetly placed in their backpacks every Friday. School personnel select students to participate based on signs of hunger, such as rushing lunch lines, hoarding food, and talking about not having food at home. 

Each backpack also contains a “love note” with an uplifting personal message and information regarding our emergency food line. This phone line is operated 24 hrs a day for families in need of immediate assistance. Our staff member will refer the caller to a partner agency or Foodbank program near them.

Last year, we had 1,520 students in 30 schools who participated in the program.

Rx Boxes

The Foodbank, in partnership with Dayton Children’s Hospital, created a Food Script Program that allows physicians and staff to write food prescriptions for hospital patient families who have been identified as food insecure. 

The food insecurity screenings are conducted by hospital community health workers, social workers, nurses, and staff. The primary target audience for this project is families with children who may be food insecure but are not already receiving food assistance.

Last year, these Rx Boxes were distributed to 522 households.

If you or someone you know is in need of food assistance, check out our overview of resources here. We also frequently post resources and up-to-date food distribution information on our Facebook page.


How We Stock Our Shelves

How we stock our shelves

Food in our warehouse comes from a variety of sources. Here’s an overview.

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

One of the most common questions we get is, “Where does your food come from?”

The Foodbank receives a wide variety of food, including fresh produce, meat products, and shelf stable food, from six main sources: food drives, food rescue, federal programs, food purchases, and our own Urban Garden. 

Last year, The Foodbank distributed just short of 18 million pounds of food — over one-third of which was fresh food. How do we go about sourcing a wide variety of healthy foods for our partner agencies and direct-service programs? Read on to find out!

Food Drive

Food drive product is the type of food that typically comes to mind when you think of a food pantry. This category is made up of nonperishable product such as canned goods, boxed meals, dry pasta, and more.

We are fortunate to have a network of community partners who regularly host food drives on our behalf. We also have several annual large-scale drives. These include Food for Friends, held in partnership with Kroger and WDTN. The campaign looks a little different this year as no physical food is being collected due to the pandemic. You can still contribute to the drive monetarily by visiting thefoodbankdayton.org/donate and select Food For Friends in your donation through December 24.

After food drive food is collected, it has to be sorted by product type so that it can be distributed to our partner agencies. Typically, this is a task that is handled by volunteers. More recently, we have been hiring temporary labor to help sort donated product. Due to limited spacing in our warehouse, it is difficult for volunteers to socially distance while sorting food.

People sorting food also check the expiration to make sure the food is still safe for consumption. You may, at times, receive food from The Foodbank that is past its expiration or “best by” date. 

Contrary to popular belief, many types of perishable food is safe to eat a considerable amount of time after the date printed on the package has passed.

To learn more about past-dated food, check out the USDA’s resource here.

Food Rescue 

The Foodbank “rescues” a portion of food we distribute from the back docks of grocery stores. This food is often perishable food that we do not receive through food drive donations: fresh produce, bakery items, and more. 

Currently, we pick food up from 42 retail stores. Our food rescue program is dual benefit: it diverts food waste from the dumpster while putting food on the tables of families in our area.

We are so grateful for the partnerships we have with our retail partners. This work helps them to reduce their waste footprint while enabling us to provide a healthy, well rounded diet to Miami Valley families.

Federal and State Commodities

Some of the food The Foodbank receives is purchased by state and federal entities on our behalf through a variety of programs. 

This is an acronym-heavy section, but the central concept is fairly simple: a state or federal entity purchases food product and contracts food banks to distribute it to food insecure households.

Here is a breakdown of different commodities we receive:

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): This is the largest subcategory we receive. TEFAP food is purchased by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and includes trade mitigation product purchased to offset the effects of trade tariffs on China. Read more about trade mitigation on our previous blog post

Ohio Food Program (OFP) and Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program (OACP): These state-funded programs are administered by our partners at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks (OAF) as a supplement to TEFAP product. OFP foods are usually “center-of-the-plate” food such as meat, while OACP food is typically fresh produce.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP): This new program, more commonly known as Farmers to Families, consists of food boxes purchased by the USDA and distributed by food banks. Food boxes commonly include fruit, vegetables, dairy, or frozen meat.

Commodity Supplemental Food Box Program (CSFP): Also known as Senior Boxes, these boxes are provided to seniors at qualifying income levels to supplement a healthy diet. Foods included are canned goods, cheese, and shelf stable milk. Know somebody who might benefit? Find out if they qualify here.

Food Purchases

Though the food we receive is primarily donation based, we do have a budget in place to purchase food that isn’t often donated. These are items such as proteins, fresh produce, specific dietary needs, culturally appropriate foods, and more. This budget allows us to cater to the needs of our clients to ensure we are assisting them in leading a healthy life.

Additionally, The Foodbank hosts several programs that require food to be purchased. Our Good-to-Go Backpack program is a weekend program that sends a variety of shelf stable items home with school aged children. We are currently distributing backpacks every week to participating schools and community centers.

Our Food Rx program, in partnership with Dayton Children’s Hospital, allows physicians to write a “prescription” for a food box for families who have screened positive for food insecurity and are not already receiving food assistance. Because these families may have specific dietary requirements due to being in the hospital, the foods in these boxes are purchased to cater to those needs.

Urban Gardening

The land that The Foodbank sits on is made largely of old parking lot space from the previous owner. In order to make use of this portion of our lot, we decided to build a 75 raised-bed urban garden that sits on top of the concrete.

Our garden is a great resource for food education, but also serves as a practical way to source food at a fraction of the cost of purchasing. Through the garden, we are able to grow fresh produce that may not be donated in large quantities or would otherwise have a short shelf-life. We have grown peppers, leafy greens, tomatoes, and more to distribute directly into the community through our on-site drive-thru.

Last year, 7,709 pounds of the produce we distributed came straight from our garden! Stay tuned for future updates as we continue to develop our garden’s production.

As you can see, there is no short answer to where our food comes from. However, we could not be the operation we are without all of these moving parts. The truth is, The Foodbank is sort of like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.

 


One in five families served by food banks has a veteran member

One in five families served by food banks has a veteran member

Why we see so many veterans in our lines

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

This Veterans Day, as we celebrate those who have served our country, it is important that we acknowledge a grim truth: We have failed to support some of these brave citizens upon their return home.

Although food insecurity among veterans as a whole, when controlled for other demographic factors, is roughly the same as the general population, some groups face increased rates of food insecurity. For veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some studies report food insecurity rates as high as 27% — more than double that of the general population. 

There are several hypotheses to explain why this particular group of veterans struggles more upon their reentry into civilian life. It may be related to the transition to an all-volunteer force around this time. While the end of the draft was seen as a win for personal freedoms, it has also contributed to a major shift in the makeup of the armed forces.

Some social scientists believe that an all-volunteer military means that those who enlist are more likely to come from complicated backgrounds, such as growing up in poverty or a troubled family life. While these individuals may find opportunity in military service, they may also have a limited support system upon returning.

One 2015 study found that the shift to an all volunteer force was associated with lower socio-economic status, lower educational attainment, and higher rates of mental health problems, which are associated with poorer social and economic outcomes.

The coronavirus pandemic has not made things any easier for those already struggling. During its course, we have received countless phone calls from individuals who are seeking food assistance for the first time, many of them veterans. Many of these people are living with disabilities, limited mobility, and have not sought food assistance before due to the associated stigma.

Anecdotally, we have heard from veterans who are hesitant to ask for help due to this stigma. Many express pride in their ability to sustain themselves and reluctance to take food from somebody who might “need it more.” We also hear from veterans who are angry at the larger system for failing them after they have served their country. Navigating benefits systems can be difficult and confusing, which leads them to call us.

While The Foodbank offers several direct service options, our mission is to acquire and distribute food to 116 partner agencies in the Miami Valley. In 2018 we began a partnership with the Dayton Veterans Administration Medical Center to provide food to veterans in the organization’s care.

The Foodbank and the Veterans Administration Medical Center are both located within 20 miles of Wright Patterson Air Force Base, the only active military base in the state. According to Census data, there are an estimated 9,085 veterans in our home city of Dayton, OH, where nearly 30% of the city’s residents live in poverty. In Montgomery County, Black individuals make up 20 percent of the total population, but make up 39 percent of the population living in poverty.

While data regarding food insecurity in veterans is hard to come by, we do know that risk factors such as being nonwhite and living in poverty are high factors in the general population, which leads us to believe our local veteran population is vulnerable as well.

We regularly refer clients who identify as veterans to the Veterans Administration Medical Center for additional services. The Veterans Administration Medical Center Food Pantry, a Foodbank program, serves an average of 238 veteran households each month. Check out the VAMC Facebook page for up-to-date information on pantry hours.

Visitors to the Veterans Administration Medical Center Pantry are not required to be currently patients of the VA. Veterans must bring a copy of their DD-214 to be served and meet current income guidelines to receive food from The Foodbank.

Partnerships with agencies like the Dayton Veterans Administration Medical Center are critical to The Foodbank’s vision that no one should go hungry. For more information on the services they provide, visit their website at https://www.dayton.va.gov/.


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.

 


SNAP is critical to our hunger relief work – here’s why

SNAP is critical to our hunger relief work – here’s why

9.5 million American families depend on SNAP to make ends meet

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

In times of crisis, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. This program is critical now more than ever.

According to a report funded by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), the number of American adults who are food insecure has reached 29 million — nearly three times as many as two years ago. Food insecurity rates are twice as high among Black and Latino households.

In The Foodbank’s own service area of Montgomery, Greene, and Preble counties, Feeding America estimated the number of food insecure individuals would reach 144,210 people in the wake of the pandemic.

We are doing everything in our power to acquire and distribute enough food to serve families in need of assistance during this difficult time. For decades, SNAP has provided critical support to the work we do.

A Snapshot of the Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamps Program (FSP), originated from a 1939 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program in which participants purchased physical stamps.

For every $1 of orange stamps, which could be redeemed for any food item that an individual purchased, they would receive 50 cents’ worth of blue stamps, which could only be used on foods designated surplus by the USDA.

The program underwent a series of revisions and became permanent in 1964 under the Food Stamp Act. Physical food stamps were transitioned to Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards during the 2000s. The program was renamed SNAP in 2008.

Currently, anyone living at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Limit is eligible to receive SNAP benefits. A household of four people must make less than $2,790 a month to be eligible for the program. The same household can receive a maximum monthly allotment of $646, scaled based on income.

For more information about SNAP eligibility, visit the USDA’s SNAP FAQ page.

Nationwide, 9.5 million households depend on SNAP. As critical as food banks are to relieving hunger, for every meal provided by a Feeding America food bank, SNAP provides nine. We emphasize how important SNAP is because we know how difficult it would be to meet the needs of our community without it.

SNAP in Action During COVID-19

One of the reasons SNAP is so effective is it provides a pre-existing structure for emergency relief in times of economic difficulties. A clear example of this is the Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), which was deployed earlier this year.

This year has been incredibly challenging for everyone, but an even bigger burden was placed on families who were already struggling with food insecurity. P-EBT was created as a first line of defense for those families.

The P-EBT program was created as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 to provide kindergarten through 12th grade children with temporary SNAP benefits. Children who qualify for free or reduced meals will receive $5.70 in SNAP benefits for each day school is closed due to COVID-19.

On September 5th, the Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services received approval to expand this program for kids who are learning virtually for the 2020-2021 school year.

For more information on the P-EBT program, visit the ODJFS website.

In addition to helping families afford a nutritious diet, SNAP is also a huge factor in stimulating the economy. Every $1 of SNAP benefits injects $1.50 back into the economy. This system is very beneficial in recessions, or in 2020’s case — a pandemic, when people are underemployed or unemployed all together. SNAP gives people a safety net for those choosing between paying for food and everyday expenses.

Room to Grow

While SNAP is an incredibly effective tool to increase families’ food security, it typically does not cover the full cost of a low-cost diet. According to a 2018 study by Feeding America and the Urban Institute, in 99 percent of US counties, the maximum SNAP per meal benefit is lower than the average cost of a meal.

In Montgomery, Greene, and Preble counties of Ohio, the maximum SNAP per-meal benefit is $1.86, while the average meal costs $2.15. Click here to view the interactive map of the study’s findings.

As a consequence of this shortfall, SNAP households engage in a multitude of coping strategies to make ends meet. These include visiting food pantries, changing the size or frequency of meals, buying food on clearance, and other strategies, according to a 2018 study by Feeding America and American University.

However, nearly 60 percent of the households surveyed had one or more family members with a chronic illness or disability. The authors of the study noted that some of these strategies “may in fact undermine the quantity and the quality of food they consume, which may exacerbate their health conditions.”

SNAP is a life saving program. Feeding America is urging the nation’s political leaders to increase SNAP benefits by 15% due to the drastic impact the pandemic has had on families across America. Increasing SNAP will boost the economy and help keep American families out of poverty during this already difficult time.

Want to help out? You can use this tool to contact your representatives here.

As times remain uncertain, we are working harder than ever to ensure that no one goes hungry. To keep up with our SNAP and other hunger relief efforts, follow us on social media @thefoodbankinc.