Inflation Escalates Hunger

Inflation escalates hunger

As the cost of groceries increases, so does food insecurity

By Amber Wright, Marketing

Most of us have already experienced the shock of inflation. Whether it was after ringing up the usual staples at the grocery store or at the gas pump, prices have increased all around.

Inflated prices means inflated need. Many Americans are finding their normal wages cannot stretch as far as they used to. To mitigate these financial challenges, many individuals and families turn to nonprofit organizations, like food banks, to provide the services needed to supplement their income. Yet the nonprofits comprising the social safety net are subject to the same economic circumstances as individuals. For this blog, we will look at the impacts of inflation and what it means for our organization.

Several causes have been credited as contributing factors to the current economic conditions. Much discussion has centered around the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war between Russia and Ukraine, and even instances of corporate profiteering. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps the most obvious factor. Global shutdowns and labor shortages disrupted supply chains across the world. The Federal Stimulus package, while crucial to economic survival, caused demand to remain high while production was down. When demand outweighs supply, prices go up.

22 million jobs were cut from the U.S. economy during the pandemic. While most of those numbers have since been restored, inflation had already taken hold. Online commerce data shows consumers spent roughly $32 billion more for the same goods over the past two years.

The war between Russia and Ukraine has made its own impact on the global market. The two countries are major contributors of goods such as oil, gasoline, metals, fertilizers, wheat, corn, and soy. This disrupts countless goods and services that require any of those items for production. In addition to problems fueled by conflict, sanctions against Russia by the U.S. and other countries have further complicated matters.

Some speculate corporate greed is also playing a role. Manuel Bojorquez, a writer for CBS News, exemplified this with data gathered from Tyson, one of the four “meat giants” controlling 85% of the market. He demonstrated how the company was able to increase profits by 48% since 2021. Even after compensating for rising costs and increased wages, they are still making more money while average families struggle with inflation. Other businesses in the industry show similar results.

It is worth noting that Tyson, like many other corporations, have raised pay for workers by 20%. This is a common trend culminating in the fastest average wage increase in 15 years. The problem is that inflation still overshadows these gains, resulting in paychecks being worth nearly 2% less in terms of purchasing power.

 The White House has expressed that inflation is typical following a pandemic and that this has been seen before in American history. The unfortunate timing of the Russia-Ukraine war has exacerbated issues, but measures are being taken to control the long-term outcome. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates in order to quell economic growth, and therefore demand, until the supply is regulated. Unfortunately, it takes time for this to take effect. In the meantime, consumers can expect higher costs in the form of credit cards, auto loans, mortgage loans, student loans and other forms of borrowing money.

 

Key Points of Inflation

The current Consumer Price Index shows that inflation has risen 8.5% over the last year, which is the fastest rate seen in more than four decades. In April, it was estimated to cost the average American household an extra $327 a month to maintain their standard of living. The main areas dramatically affected include necessities such as food, fuel, and materials like metal and plastic that are found in packaging of nearly all retail items.

Food costs have repeatedly risen since 2020 and it is anticipated that this trend will continue. CNBC compared the current price for household grocery staples to costs last year. These essential items have jumped in price at the following rates over the last year:

Flour and prepared flour mixes: 14.2%
Butter and margarine: 14%
Meat, poultry and fish: 13.8%
Milk: 13.3%
Eggs: 11.2%
Fresh fruits: 10.1%
Bread: 7.1%
Fresh vegetables: 5.9%

Similarly, fuel has seen an extreme increase with crude oil at a staggering 70.1% annual increase and gasoline seeing a 48% price hike. Similar trends can be found among other forms of energy with electricity costs spiking 11.1%. Raw materials are another area suffering steep upticks. While prices are continuing to fluctuate, steel has seen a 74.4% increase and lumber an increase of 79.5% in cost over the previous year.

 

What This Means for Us and the Neighbors We Serve

As we all adjust our spending to compensate for various spikes in prices, we know the people most greatly affected are those already walking a financial tightrope. Low wages, redlining, discrimination, and other root causes of poverty have prevented many individuals from surviving without some way to supplement their income, even prior to the pandemic. Inflation is intensifying the problem.

The cessation of pandemic-related assistance programs has further reduced support for many. It is reasonable to assume that inflation is knocking more families into a financial crisis without these supplemental benefits. Like most food banks, we are seeing an increase in families served at our distribution sites, and we anticipate numbers will grow when the Public Health Emergency SNAP allotments end in the months ahead.

Need for food assistance is on the rise, and so are purchasing costs.  About 65% of Feeding America food banks reported seeing a greater demand in March from the month before. While these organizations are buying the same amount of food this year compared to 2021, it is costing roughly 40% more.

Our non-profit is enduring similar trends. For example, an 8.45 oz. white milk used for our Good-to-Go-Backpack program cost us 50 cents apiece in September 2021. We were able to order 32,400 (totaling $16,200.) Just five months later in February 2022 the price increased to almost 63 cents apiece. At that price, securing the same amount increased more than $4,000.

Another example is the Honey Pepper Beef Sticks we also purchase for our Good-to-Go-Backpack program. This shelf stable, ready-to-eat source of protein is an important piece of our kid-friendly food packs. In August of 2021 we purchased 30,240 at 48 cents apiece (totaling about $14,515.) In February 2022 the price went up to 52 cents apiece, and so did our purchase for 68,544 (totaling about $35,643.) If the same amount had been purchased, it still would have cost over a thousand dollars more.

Another trend we are seeing among food banks is a decrease in donated product. Retailers are forced to tighten their spending as they are confronted with the same economic conditions. Labor shortages and supply chain issues disrupt their product flow as well. As a result, food donations are not as robust as they once were. Feeding America reported a 20% decrease in donations from food manufacturers and 45% less provision from the federal government for fiscal year 2022.

 Accommodating a greater need can require additional time and space. Anyone who has waited in our Drive Thru distribution already knows that the wait times are getting longer, but we have remained to serve every car in line. We will continue to do so, rain or shine, as long as the need exists. Supply chain issues may not afford us the ability to purchase the items we want, but we will always provide the best within our means to create a well-rounded offering of food to our partners and customers.

Our warehouse is currently in the process of expanding to store and distribute more food. The current building had already reached max capacity with a yearly distribution of nearly 18 million pounds of food each year. While this process was underway before inflation got out of hand, we will continue to invest the time and money it requires to address increased food insecurity. The more food we can store, the more we can distribute.

 We are committed to meeting the need in our community no matter what challenges we face. We have done so through a pandemic, tornados, and a county-wide water crisis, and we will do it again. We have honed the ability to pivot and adjust to the circumstances at hand. Our staff is rich with talent, compassion, and dedication, which will allow us to overcome obstacles in the path to fulfilling our mission. As we navigate the changing economic climate, we will remain firm in our efforts toward equity so that we can end hunger and its root causes. With the continued support of businesses and community members, we can weather whatever storm may lay ahead.


Incarceration and Food Insecurity

Incarceration and Food Insecurity

Ex-Offenders Face Systemic Barriers to Reentering Society, Most are Food Insecure

By Amber Wright, Marketing

The incarceration rate in the United States is at its lowest since 1995, yet nearly 7 million  US citizens are incarcerated or under community control at any given time.

Roughly 600,000 people are released from prison every year and these barriers and inequities carry over not only for them and their families, but also the communities to which they return.

For this blog, we will look at the nutritional well-being among formerly incarcerated individuals. 91% of people beginning their transition out of imprisonment report not having regular access to nutritious food. Long after release, they still remain twice as likely to be food insecure. Reentering society presents several barriers to gaining meaningful employment, leading to high rates of food insecurity and ultimately higher rates of recidivism and healthcare expenditures.


Importance of Proper Nutrition

Inadequate nutrition has been linked to several consequences such as:

  • Obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and deficits in brain function (CDC)
  • Worsening mood disorders like depression and anxiety (Harvard)
  • Hypertension and osteoporosis (USDA)
  • Hyperactivity, disciplinary problems, psychological problems, and criminal behavior (DOJ)
  • Increase of premature deaths

 

Stable access to healthy foods is crucial for both physical and mental well-being. Just as school children affected by hunger display poor performance and difficulty learning in school, adults suffer the same outcomes in the workplace.

If proper nutrition remains out of reach, it can be difficult to retain employability. Coupled with new or preexisting health conditions, this can generate avoidable healthcare expenses footed by the state.

Research reveals poor diets account for 20% of healthcare costs from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. That equates to about $50 billion that could have been avoided.

There are several factors unique to previously incarcerated individuals that hinder access to a sufficient diet.


Collateral Consequences

Sentences might end, but the consequences of incarceration do not. For those who are released each year, most find significant barriers to getting back on their feet. They struggle to find adequate housing, employment, and living wages. These necessities are crucial for individuals to successfully reenter society instead of returning to the system.

Legally sanctioned restrictions and disabilities resulting from a conviction are known as “collateral consequences.” More than 47,000 collateral consequences have been identified in state and federal law, barring formerly incarcerated people from rights normally granted to American citizens. These may negatively affect access to housing, employment, professional licensure, property rights, mobility and even access to public benefits.


Barriers to Housing

Federal law currently bars access to public housing for people with certain types of convictions and grants private landlords the ability to deny anyone with a criminal background. It is not surprising that a third of people released from prison wind up in homeless shelters. Even those who have been incarcerated only once are 7 times more likely to be homeless than the general populations. It is 13 times more likely for anyone incarcerated more than once, and even higher in both categories for people of color and women.

Legislation punishes homelessness even more by criminalizing things like sleeping in public spaces, panhandling and public urination, which entraps hordes of people in the cycle of poverty while increasing recidivism rates. Even if former inmates are lucky enough to secure housing, they often find themselves limited to low-income, redlined neighborhoods. This increases the likelihood of living in a food desert and raises the chance of food insecurity.


Barriers Employment

Several social and legal barriers make it just as difficult for returning citizens to find employment. The first time data was released on the subject in 2018 by the Prison Policy Initiative, it revealed that unemployment for those leaving incarceration was an astounding 27%. Not only is that 5 times higher than the general population, but it exceeds the rate of any economic crisis, including the Great Depression. More than half of people released from prison remain out of work for at least a year.

One study found that state and federal law restricted ex-offenders from obtaining licensing required for various forms of employment. It discovered more than 12,000 restrictions for individuals with any type of felony and more than 6,000 restrictions based on misdemeanors. Surveys suggest most private employers are unwilling to hire someone who has served a prison sentence and 87% of employers conduct background checks.

Social stigma may suggest that people reentering society are not looking for work, but recent analysis indicates otherwise. For people between the ages of 25-44, data listed 93.3% of ex-offenders were either employed or actively looking for work, while only 83.8% of the general population fell into the same category. Low employment rates are more related to the systemic barriers they face rather than a lack of desire to work. Like housing barriers, people of color and women are affected the most.


Barriers to Benefits

Barriers have also been put in place hindering access to public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

In 1996 federal law banned anyone with a felony drug conviction from receiving SNAP benefits. Since then, most states have either dropped the ban entirely or allowed assistance on the condition of regular drug testing and treatment. However, South Carolina still has the full ban in place.

The additional requirements put in place by states who have modified the ban not only accrue additional costs for the state, but they add strain to the individuals in fulfilling them. Already having a harder time finding employment, they must now limit their availability to make regular appointments.

When accessible, public benefits improve the health of recipients as well as cut costs in other areas. For example, SNAP has shown to reduce healthcare costs while improving the overall health of recipients and reducing food insecurity by 30%. At the same time, studies for even the modified ban on access to these benefits proved to increase recidivism instead.


Why This Matters

It’s not difficult to see how all these factors lead to food insecurity. If someone is unable to find housing or employment, it’s unlikely they will have regular access to healthy foods. Poor nutrition escalates physical and mental health conditions, decreasing employability and overall quality of life. Under these conditions, it is no surprise that both recidivism and poverty rates remain high.

It has been estimated that between 1980 and 2004 overall poverty in America would have dropped 20% if not for mass incarceration.

Poor nutrition exacerbates behavioral issues and aggression. When people have served their sentence, they continue to be punished with collateral consequences and social stigma, resulting in barriers to housing and employment. This increases recidivism and decreases social productivity for everyone.

Instead of funding being spent on public assistance and programs to help people reenter society (or avoid arrest completely,) it is often used to house those who are unable to overcome these challenges.

Reducing recidivism helps everyone. It is essential that ex-offenders be granted the same accessibility to these basic needs to make it happen. More programs should be put in place not only for their benefit, but for that of their families and the overall well-being of society.

 


Food Insecurity in Women-Led Households

Food Insecurity in Women-Led Households

Female headed households were already more vulnerable to food insecurity, but Covid made it worse

By Amber Wright, Development and Marketing

Women have been fighting for equality since before Susan B. Anthony advocated for women’s rights. Our nation has made great strides with females winning the right to vote, gaining employment in greater numbers and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, which allowed women to legally own credit cards separate from their husband. However, lasting effects of gender inequality has left many women still experiencing disparities in areas such as poverty and food security.

National food insecurity rates were dropping during the years leading up to Covid, but that trend excluded certain groups such as woman-led families. After the pandemic made its devastating economic impact, they continue to experience higher rates of food insecurity than their peers. More than a quarter of women-led families currently struggle with hunger.

Women are more vulnerable to food insecurity if they have children, although women are more likely to live in poverty even without them. They suffer from greater unemployment during Covid, lower wages, extra childcare responsibilities, and disproportionate health consequences. While this holds true globally, for this blog we will focus on data from the United States.

A great deal of stigma has often plagued single mothers throughout history. Racially charged depictions of the “welfare queen,” along with pervading religious dogma, have contributed to this stigma. Ohio and several other states even considered forced sterilization of single women who had another child while on public assistance. Besides being archaic, this stereotype completely ignores half of single mothers who are divorced, separated, or widowed. It also fails to consider the number of women who are victims of trauma, fleeing physical abuse, or became pregnant because of sexual assault.

Households run by single mothers are the second most common family type in the U.S., accounting for 80.5% of all single-parent families and almost half of all low-income families. This group experiences poverty at more than double the rate of their male counterparts, with 23.4% of single mothers living in poverty compared to 11.4% of single fathers. The numbers are far worse compared to married couples with children, who sit around 5%.

Since food insecurity is driven by lack of income and other critical resources, it is important to look at the inequities regarding employment. In general, women now make 98 cents for every dollar a man makes working the same job. However, the average for single mothers is lower at 82 cents. Average pay is even less for single mothers that are Black (64 cents) or Latina/Hispanic (56 cents).

Our country’s recent recession is the first time unemployment has risen into the double digits for women since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting data by gender in 1948. Since the onset of the Covid economic crisis, women in general have suffered job loss at a higher rate (15.7% for women compared to 13.3% for men.) Once again, rates are higher for Black women (15.8%) and Latina/Hispanic women (19.8%).

This latest economic downturn more adversely effected the service industry, which is disproportionately staffed by women. Data shows women are twice as likely to work in low-wage, part-time jobs with few to no benefits. This leaves many of them lacking adequate health insurance and medical care. Of all groups, single mothers are most likely to lack coverage. It further jeopardizes their basic income if sick leave is not provided. It is also worth noting that unlike most of our peer countries, the U.S. does not grant new mothers paid leave.

Another contributing factor is closures of schools and child-care facilities. Women carry a higher burden of childcare responsibilities: 80.5% of all single-parent households are run by a mother alone. Of these households, only a third received any child support payments, which averaged only $286 a month. The average cost of childcare alone is $808/month in Ohio and a little more than $750/month nationally. However, many facilities shut down entirely during Covid, leaving many women out of options regardless of income or support. This forced a large number of women, especially single mothers, out of the workforce. While households with children who miss school due to Covid-19 receive P-EBT benefits, the parent is still responsible for grocery shopping and food preparation.

Children suffered higher rates of food insecurity after school closures. Not only can the family’s primary source of income be effected, but schools are no longer providing regular meals. The mother is now faced with lack of childcare and the burden of providing and preparing extra meals during the day.

Both mothers and children experience disparities in health conditions tied to food insecurity. Proper nutritional intake not only effects a child’s current health, but also their mental, physical, and social development. The USDA has stated children from food insecure homes are more likely to suffer adverse outcomes, such as chronic health conditions, slower progress while learning in school, and more difficulties with social development.

Women are more likely than men to experience weight gain or obesity while food insecure, but at the same time are less likely to consume more than 50% of the recommended energy intake compared to food-secure women. This is often linked to the consumption of cheap, calorie-rich food.

The mental health of women also declines as food insecurity increases. It is not surprising that people lacking regular access to nutritious food show higher rates of depression and other mental health disorders. In turn, this can further reduce the stability of regular employment.

Social Programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are proven to reduce food insecurity. Research has shown that food insecure mothers who receive the benefits display improvements in both mental and physical health. Women, Infants and Children (WIC) further helps mothers with young children access proper nutrition and overall better health, but the dollars do not stretch far. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the estimated national average of SNAP benefits only amounts to roughly $5.78 per day ($1.93 per meal.)

We have recognized several levels of disparities regarding food insecurity in women, particularly women of color. Continuing research has shown positive improvements in health and livelihood for food insecure women with help from various public benefit programs, but the support is not enough to close the gap. In the spirit of equity and advocacy, we suggest a call to action for legislatures to increase funding for these initiatives.


Black History-in-the-Making: Tae Winston

Black History-in-the-Making: Tae Winston

Dayton Powerhouse supports Black-owned businesses in the Dayton area, brings commerce back into the community

 

By Amber Wright, Development and Marketing

Every February we celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans throughout history.

A simple Google search will generate endless pages filled with iconic pictures: Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the crowds in Washington, Muhammed Ali standing over a knocked-out Sonny Liston in the boxing ring, protestors holding signs while marching in unity, and Rosa Parks poised with strength and dignity in front of a bus.

These images are snapshots of pivotal moments in American history, cataloging the struggle of our nation as we began the transition from slavery and segregation to civil rights and equality.

At The Foodbank, we realize the fight is not over yet.

Our organization is dedicated to addressing the root causes of poverty, which includes factors such as systemic racism, redlining, and other policies that have contributed to racial inequity. It is crucial that we have these conversations so we can develop sustainable solutions.

While it is tempting to reiterate the atrocities that took place in our country and the extraordinary men and women who fought (and often died) to bring about change, that information is better taught in school textbooks where it can be discussed in-depth.

For this blog, we want highlight history-in-the-making with a profile of a local woman who is part of the solution for systemic change. Tae Winston is a Black entrepreneur who is using her talents to improve local communities and the small businesses they house.

 

Tae Winston: Entrepreneur

Tae Winston has made it her business to help other local businesses.

In a time of pandemics, natural disasters, rising inflation and economic instability, the people who often suffer most are small business owners. Factor in decades of redlining, discrimination, and food deserts, many historically Black Dayton neighborhoods have been deeply affected. Winston’s success with the Dayton Powerhouse is helping to reverse the damage by providing the space and guidance for local entrepreneurs to thrive.

The Dayton Powerhouse is a collective created by Winston which also sponsors community events. It includes two buildings housing various businesses, an educational center and a bus that has been converted to a mobile fashion store.

Her first brick-and-mortar store, the Entrepreneur Marketplace, was opened in 2019 as a space for local entrepreneurs to have a safe place to connect, shop, and sell their products or services. Local vendors can display their product without having to finance all the overhead costs for things like rent, electric, staff and property maintenance. The Marketplace comes staffed with its own manager, so independent sellers can still work a normal job while their wares are being sold.

Located in the Wright Dunbar business district, it also provides a place for the community to buy local in an area where many businesses had permanently closed.

“When I first came to Wright Dunbar it was a food desert and business was dead,” said Winston. “It inspired me to bring a chef into the Marketplace and have food trucks outside to give people options. Now the district is drawing in other businesses and beginning to rebuild.”

The launch was so successful that she opened two additional brick and mortar locations. The Entrepreneur Shoppe, also located in the Wright Dunbar business district, is another store housing more than 30 Black-owned businesses. The Entrepreneur Connection is an academy that works with small business owners by providing workshops, resources, guidance, and support. It also can be rented out to other community members who need space to host classes of their own.

“My thing is, anyone can get an LLC and become a business, but can you sustain it? Can you grow it and make a profit? That’s what we offer,” Winston said.

Opening the Connection is continuously helping the community by giving local small businesses an opportunity to gain footing in a market dominated by large corporations. With a pandemic induced shutdown and an immediate rise in inflation, bigger businesses are often the only ones able to survive. The Marketplace and Shoppe enables smaller vendors to access space. The Connection coaches them on how to use it.

In addition to facilitating commerce in her brick-and-mortar stores, Tae Winston attracts customers with her organized events. The Fashion Meets Food Truck Rally has hosted more than 50 vendors and 15 food trucks in Trotwood. Winston also created what former mayor Nan Whaley officially proclaimed “Wright Dunbar Day” on June 27th, 2021. This event has already created revenue for 80-100 small businesses and 30 food trucks, according to Winston. Her events have the capacity to feature as many as 300 merchants. This generates cash flow that stays in the community.

The Dayton Powerhouse did not pass unscathed from Covid. All the large events had to be canceled and her stores saw a decline in sales. Winston adapted with a curb-side pickup policy and managed to keep her doors open. “Covid just came and changed the game,” she said. “I’m still struggling to make up for the losses, but I’m making it work.”

Winston says she faced the same barriers many Black entrepreneurs face when first entering the market: lack of capital and support. Her entire business venture has been self-funded without grants or a business loan. That is a problem many people face in areas that have been redlined, often disproportionately effecting people of color. After securing her brick-and-mortar retail space, she encouraged other small businesses to share it.

While most small businesses she works with are Black owned, she offers her services to everyone.

“I don’t care what color you are. I don’t just cater to Black vendors, I help all races,” she said. “I am proud to be a Black business owner, but I am here for everybody. What I do is out of love. That’s how I was raised.”

Experiences with discrimination motivated Winston to help other aspiring business owners by being more inclusive and supportive. “I was a vendor that was thriving and doing well, but I was pushed out of my space for trivial reasons,” Winston explained. “That’s what made me want to create a safe place for people to thrive where they wouldn’t be pushed out like I was.”

All of Winston’s efforts have revitalized the community so greatly that Winston’s business was selected for the Ohio Business Spotlight and received a certificate of commendation from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. The recognition is given to organizations for transforming the community and educating job creators about what it takes to succeed.

“I’m more concerned with helping others instead of only building myself up,” she said. “I think the community would look different if more people were willing to collaborate, share information and support each other in life and business. We can all win.”

The Dayton Powerhouse has worked with more than 350 Black-own businesses in the last three years. More than 25 vendors have already grown into their own independent locations which are still sustaining. Annual events like Wright Dunbar Day bring the community together while supporting local and minority-owned businesses.

Winston credits her success to hard work and to being part of the community, not just doing business in it. She has taken a seat on the Greater West Dayton Incubator Advisory Council where she can also be a voice for the community she serves.


The long shadow of the “welfare queen” narrative

The long shadow of the “welfare queen” narrative

The majority of public benefits recipients are white, but racist narratives harm benefits access for low-income people of all races.

By Emily Gallion, Grants & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager

Some misconceptions about public assistance are easily debunked: Fraud rates in these programs are extremely low, the majority of people who receive assistance are white, and most participants who can work do.

It is more difficult to address the racialization of government benefits discussions. This is because policies such as work requirements that may seem racially neutral first appeared in a much different context.

Many lawmakers made little effort to hide the intent of these policies. Early resistance to public benefits programs included concerns about the economy, which was reliant on low-wage Black laborers.

As one lawmaker said, “I can’t find anyone to iron my shirts!”

In this blog, we will tackle the difficult history of public benefits access for Black households — and how stereotypes about low income people of color have led to policies that are harmful to people of all races.

Demonization of Black Welfare Recipients

Particularly in the South, states added restrictive policies in the 1900s to prevent Black families from accessing aid programs. Some states restricted aid to domestic or agricultural workers, which were predominantly Black. Louisiana limited aid to families during cotton picking season.

As a result, 90% of Black women laborers were initially ineligible for unemployment and Social Security programs, and two thirds were still excluded a decade later, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

Some of the worst examples of discrimination in public benefits programs come from the Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program, created in 1935 to support children living in poverty. This program had origins in mother’s pensions for widows and would later develop into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Many restrictions to the ADC originated from racist ideas about Black women, especially Black mothers. Some of these included so-called “man-in-the-house” or “suitable home” policies, which targeted Black and unmarried mothers. 

For example, in the three months after Louisiana restricted ADC funding to children whose mothers were “unsuitable” for unmarried sex, 95% of the 6,000 children removed from the program were Black.

Lawmakers expressed particular concern that Black women would have more children solely to increase their benefits. One man, Mississippi State Representative David H. Glass, stated, “The negro woman, because of child welfare assistance, [is] making it a business, in some cases of giving birth to illegitimate children.”

Rep. Glass also introduced a 1958 bill in Mississippi to order sterilizations of women who gave birth to children while receiving benefits. The state of Ohio is one of several to consider similar forced sterilization policies.

The Welfare Queen Myth

These derogatory narratives about Black women appeared more recently in the “welfare queen” hysteria of the 70s. During Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign, he spoke of a “woman from Chicago” who earned $150,000 a year from government checks.

This woman was a real person named Linda Taylor who did receive nearly $9,000 in benefits by using fraudulent names and addresses. Ms. Taylor was a biracial woman with a complicated personal history. Her all-white school expelled her at age 6. At age 14, she gave birth to her first child. Several psychiatrists and lawyers stated that she experienced mental illness and seemed incapable of telling the truth.

This is not to present Ms. Taylor as an innocent victim — some historians also believe she committed a variety of more severe crimes, including kidnapping, child abuse, and even murder. However, she never faced prosecution for any of these suspected crimes. Media coverage of her life focused on her welfare fraud instead.

In total, the county spent $50,000 to convict Ms. Taylor. Her story was amplified to foster the belief that welfare fraud was widespread — in reality, just 1 percent of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare’s annual budget was lost to fraud and abuse, with the majority of ADC mispayments originating from simple mistakes.

A Lasting Legacy

These ideas — that poor people, especially people of color, are lazy, deceitful, and require harsh penalties to coerce them to work — persist in our public benefits system today. TANF, which replaced ADC, still includes language about marriage and unplanned pregnancies that calls to memory the “man-in-the-home” policies of the original program.

Stated Goals of Temporary assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Ohio’s TANF program, Ohio Works First (OWF), is difficult for people living in poverty to qualify for. Families can receive OWF for a maximum of three years (lower than the federal standard of five years. To qualify, a family’s gross income can only be 50 percent of the federal poverty level. This is $630/month ($7,560 annually) for a family of three. OWF recipients are subject to strict work requirements with no exception for adults who are ill, pregnant, elderly, or responsible for childcare.

Due in part to these requirements, over 80% of cases in Ohio are child-only, which typically means the child is living with a family member who is not their parent. According to the Center for Community Solutions, Ohio is second in the nation by number of child-only families, behind California but ahead of New York.

While stable, long-term income is a worthwhile goal for people living in poverty, there is little evidence that work requirements in public benefits programming accomplish this. Analysis of multiple studies by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that work requirements ultimately do not reduce poverty — and some families fall into deeper poverty while participating in these programs.

It’s true that work requirements in programs such as TANF and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) do result in modest initial gains in employment. However, these employment increases are not enough to lift families out of poverty. They are also generally not sustained long-term and do not address barriers such as health issues and childcare.

Work requirements disproportionately impact people of color. They are more likely to experience challenges like high local unemployment, transportation barriers, and poor physical and mental health. This, along with alleged bias by caseworkers, may be why people of color are significantly more likely to be sanctioned for work requirements.

Research also shows that people who lose benefits due to work requirements meet conditions that should make them exempt. One study of Tennessee’s TANF funds found around 30 percent of sanctions were made in error.

SNAP also comes with work requirements, which some counties in the state of Ohio are exempt from due to high unemployment rates. These counties are predominantly white and rural, despite that areas with highest rates of unemployment are typically Black and urban. 

This is because the state of Ohio administers exemptions at the county level, obscuring pockets of high unemployment within counties. According to analysis by the Center for Community Solutions in 2018, 97% of people living in exempt counties were white. 

The same report determined that seven Ohio cities that could qualify for the exemption were home to 40 percent of Ohio’s Black population and over half of Black Ohioans who live in poverty.

Closing Thoughts

It is particularly cruel to characterize people of color as dependent on government assistance when these same programs contain racialized language and policies. While these policies disproportionately impact people of color, efforts to weaken safety net programming harm all people living in poverty.

We support policies that help the people we serve to live a healthy, active lifestyle. We couldn’t do this work without programs like SNAP and TANF. It is our hope that we can implement policies that treat people living in poverty with dignity and respect.

For up-to-date information on policies such as SNAP, you can sign up for advocacy alerts from our partners at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks and Feeding America.


The Benefits Cliff: Why some people can’t afford to get a raise

The Benefits Cliff:
Why some people can’t
afford to get a raise

Minimum wage hikes may not benefit families

if they lose more in public benefits

By Amber Wright, Development and Marketing

 

At the Foodbank, we often see people come through our Drive Thru for food while still dressed in work attire. They are employed, but still struggling to put food on the table after paying the bills. For many, paychecks just aren’t stretching far enough.

One solution that could alleviate this problem is to raise the federal minimum wage, which does provide a boost in income for workers earning the minimum wage. However, the issue is more complicated than it may first appear due to the way many public benefit programs are structured.

One issue, known as the “benefit cliff,” hurts most the workers making the least. This is where a person gains a small increase in income, which then causes them to lose some benefits from programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 housing vouchers, or other programs.  Employees can feel trapped by the system because wage increases do not actually improve their financial situation.

While there isn’t significant growth in their paycheck, they can suddenly find themselves with substantial bills for things such as housing, childcare, medical bills, grocery bills and more. They may now bring home less money overall because their paycheck is taxed, whereas their benefits were not. This financial predicament can be triggered by a pay increase as small as 25 cents an hour.

For example, imagine a working family is receiving SNAP benefits as well as Section 8 housing assistance. The head of household barely qualifies for SNAP assistance, and their employer offers them a $1.50 hourly raise, which would make them ineligible for SNAP and Section 8. If this household loses their Section 8 status, they will have to reapply to the program — which has average wait times up to 8 years depending on the city, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – if their wages or hours are cut in the future.

At 40 hours a week, a $1.50 raise would only add $240 to the total monthly income before taxes. The Dayton Housing Authority last reported an average pay out for section 8 housing assistance in the area at $588 per month. That is $348 more than the increase in wages, even without factoring in taxes or the dollar amount lost with SNAP benefits.

Single parent families can be hit the hardest. Not only do they struggle with rent and basic utilities, but they are also confronted with rising childcare costs, school fees and extra mouths to feed – all on a single income. In cases like this, they often rely on public assistance to survive.

It’s not surprising that many people will turn down a raise, promotion, or extra hours/overtime to avoid this financial nightmare. It may seem like a paradox, but many people find that they can’t afford to get a raise.

Legislators and advocates are discussing solutions to this cliff effect. One idea that is already practiced in a few sectors is to taper benefits gradually instead of cutting off all assistance at once. Benefits would decrease at the same rate as wages increase, or even a little less as an added incentive to excel at work. This would provide a smoother transition to self-sufficiency in smaller, more manageable steps.

Another idea is combining the various benefit programs into a combined filing process, which would not only make applying quicker and easier for applicants, but also allow better insight into how these benefits work together in relation to recipient’s wage and other circumstances.

Currently, most public assistance programs are granted with their own separate requirements, such as documents proving eligibility, employment, or ongoing employment applications. Some programs may also require regular appointments with a case manager, attending job training or other classes. For someone needing or receiving multiple benefits, this can be difficult to juggle along with work, children, and household responsibilities.

The benefit cliff is already a problem many people face without changes to minimum wage, but we must consider how raising it might further exacerbate the issue. Each state implementing its own standard complicates things further.

The federal minimum wage is set at $7.25/hour, but on January 1st Ohio’s jumped 50 cents to $9.30/hour, which is higher than all but one adjacent state. Michigan also raised theirs with the New Year to $9.87/hour, while Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania remain at the federal minimum $7.25/hour. West Virginia kept theirs the same at $8.75/hour.

Some funding programs have already gone several years without considering factors such as these into the equation. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a basic block grant providing public assistance that has not been adjusted for changes such as population increase, inflation, or minimum wage hikes since it began 25 years ago. Adjusted for inflation, in fiscal year 2021, the TANF basic block grant was worth 40% less than its value in fiscal year 1997.

However, there are existing practices that do provide earning incentives. SNAP is one of the programs structured to ease the transition off public assistance. A “benefits phase-out” slowly decreases benefits as income grows so that the financial support doesn’t disappear all at once. The current rate allows recipients to bring home a higher total income even as their benefits decrease.

The SNAP program also shows preferential treatment to earned income over unearned income, such as social security or cash assistance. A family whose net income from employment matches that of a family only on assistance will be granted greater funds as an incentive to work.

Raising the federal minimum wage has the potential to aid many families in the United States, but it is not a simple fix. We also must ensure our public benefits programs are structured to support growth, incentivize work, and help families meet their basic needs as incomes increase.

2022 Minimum Wage by State

Alabama $7.25 / hour
Alaska $10.34 / hour
Arizona $12.80 / hour
Arkansas $11.00 / hour
California $14.00 / hour
Colorado $12.56 / hour
Connecticut $13.00 / hour
Delaware $10.50 / hour
Florida $10.00 / hour
Georgia $7.25 / hour
Hawaii $10.10 / hour
Idaho $7.25 / hour
Illinois $12.00 / hour
Indiana $7.25 / hour
Iowa $7.25 / hour
Kansas $7.25 / hour
Kentucky $7.25 / hour
Louisiana $7.25 / hour
Maine $12.75 / hour
Maryland $12.50 / hour
Massachusetts $14.25 / hour
Michigan $9.87 / hour
Minnesota $10.33 / hour
Mississippi $7.25 / hour
Missouri $11.15 / hour
Montana $9.20 / hour
Nebraska $9.00 / hour
Nevada $9.75 / hour
New Hampshire $7.25 / hour
New Jersey $13.00 / hour
New Mexico $11.50 / hour
New York $13.20 / hour
North Carolina $7.25 / hour
North Dakota $7.25 / hour
Ohio $9.30 / hour
Oklahoma $7.25 / hour
Oregon $12.75 / hour
Pennsylvania $7.25 / hour
Rhode Island $12.25 / hour
South Carolina $7.25 / hour
South Dakota $9.95 / hour
Tennessee $7.25 / hour
Texas $7.25 / hour
Utah $7.25 / hour
Vermont $12.55 / hour
Virginia $11.00 / hour
Washington $14.49 / hour
West Virginia $8.75 / hour
Wisconsin $7.25 / hour
Wyoming $7.25 / hour
Puerto Rico $8.50 / hour
District of Columbia $15.20 / hour
Federal $7.25 / hour

 

Source: Minimum Wage Rates by State 2022 (minimum-wage.org)


What to expect: The Foodbank pilots new neighbor intake system

What to expect: The Foodbank pilots new neighbor intake system

The platform, created by Feeding America, will allow us to collect more insights about the people we serve

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager

Thanks to a new partnership with Feeding America, The Foodbank is piloting a new neighbor intake platform. This platform will allow us to better understand the people we serve and evaluate our services, but may cause some minor disruption as we adapt to the new system.

The new platform is very similar to PantryTrak, the system we already use, which was created by our friends at Mid-Ohio Food Collective. However, the new program will collect more complex demographic information so that we can evaluate how well we are reaching communities that are traditionally underserved.

We are already using the new system to sign-in clients at select Mobile Pantry and Drive Thru Food Pantry distributions. Significantly, we are unable to import our historic client database to the new system at this time.

PantryTrak has enabled us to quickly pull up our returning neighbors’ profiles without entering more detailed information, but we must create a new profile for each individual for this new system. Fortunately, this is a one-time process — you will not need to provide this information for each consecutive visit.

If you are unable to provide any of the following information, you will not be turned away from receiving food. Our team does everything we are able to, in keeping with state and federal guidelines, to make sure anyone who reports a need for food receives assistance.

The new platform will require the following information from clients:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth OR age
  • Street address
  • Number of adults (18-59), seniors (60+), and children in the household
  • Date of birth OR age of each family member

If you are picking up on behalf of another household, you will need to provide this information about the family you are picking up for.

We’d like to remind you that we are required to collect the above information about each client to receive federally-purchased food. While we strive to make our programming as user-friendly as possible, we must follow federal and state guidelines to distribute food. (In special circumstances, we are able to find alternative solutions — such as offering food that is nor federally purchased — to ensure no one goes hungry.)

As we move further in the pilot process, we will be asking additional questions to help understand who we are serving. You may decline to respond to any of the following questions:

  • What race or ethnicity do you identify as?
  • What gender do you identify as?
  • Does anyone in your household receive SNAP/food stamps?

Finally, we will be piloting optional questions to gather information such as dietary restrictions, disability status, and veteran status. You may decline to respond to any question you do not wish to answer.

We are grateful for our neighbors’ patience as we collect this vital information. We are so excited to use this data to better serve our community.

If you have questions about this pilot, call Lauren Tappel at (937) 461-0265 x40


Wholesale Food Purchases Help Provide Better Choices for Our Neighbors

Wholesale Food Purchases Help Provide Better Choices for Our Neighbors

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

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How to host a holiday food drive

How to host a holiday food drive

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

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

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

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

What items can I donate?

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

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

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

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

Consider a virtual food drive!

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

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

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

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

Get started today!

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

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

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

Consider these ideas to make your food drive more impactful:

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