It’s time to close the book on college hunger

It’s time to close the book on college hunger

Despite that an estimated one-third of college students are food insecure, most are ineligible to receive SNAP benefits

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

It’s a familiar joke: “College students live on ramen.” We all recognize the stereotype that college students live on cheap, calorie-rich “junk” foods. However, the reality lurking behind this narrative is much more troubling.

A 2019 survey found that 34 percent of college students were food insecure in the previous 30 days. As with the general population, certain students are more likely to face food insecurity, including students of color, students who are transgender or nonbinary, and students enrolled at two-year institutions.

While many assume that most college students rely on funding from their parents, this has become more and more incorrect. In 2018, the Government Accountability Office found that 71% of college students were “nontraditional,” meaning they are financially independent, working full time, enrolled part-time, have dependents of their own, or did not receive a high school diploma. 

The “traditional” student, one who enrolls in college full-time after completing high school and is dependent on their parents, represents less than one-third of the college population.

We are all aware of the impacts food insecurity has on an individual’s health and well-being. College students who are food insecure also face poorer educational outcomes than their peers. A John Hopkins study found that food insecure students were 43 percent less likely to graduate and 61 percent less likely to get an advanced degree.

“Policies to increase access to higher education need to really help students afford the full cost of higher education, meaning their living expenses as well as tuition rates,” an author of the study said.

Given the extent of food insecurity in this population, as well as the impact on college success, it is clear that hunger is a major barrier for college graduation. While education is supposed to provide equal opportunity, these barriers are disproportionately felt by students from low-income families, students of color, and students who are transgender — magnifying existing inequalities.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) is the nation’s number one defense against hunger. However, college students are generally not eligible to receive SNAP benefits.

There are certain exemptions to this policy: students are eligible if they are enrolled in college less than half-time (as defined by their financial institution), work more than 20 hours per week, are enrolled in a federal or state work-study program, or meet other criteria. For a full list of eligibility requirements, visit the USDA’s guide here.

During the pandemic, the Consolidated Appropriations Act expanded exemptions to students who are eligible to participate in federal or state work study or have an Expected Family Contribution of $0 on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). These exemptions are temporary and will expire 30 days after the federal health emergency designation is lifted.

One bill, the Expanding Access to SNAP (EATS) Act of 2021, seeks to make college students eligible for benefits by counting college attendance towards SNAP work requirements. This bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in March and the Senate in July. An article in The Counter, a nonprofit newsroom that covers the US food system, called the bill’s chances “slim in a divided Congress.”

It is imperative that students have access to enough food to live a healthy, active lifestyle — and focus on their education. To learn more about food insecurity in college students, check out Feeding America’s research on the subject.


Hunger Action Month 2021: How to take action

Hunger Action Month 2021: How to take action

Looking for ways to advocate for your neighbors this September? Here are some ideas.

By: Emily Gallion, Grants and Advocacy Manager and Caitlyn McIntosh, Volunteer Support/Intake

Hunger Action Month, established by Feeding America in 2008, aims to rally Americans around the issue of food insecurity in America. Feeling stuck on how to participate? Here are some suggestions:

1. Volunteer

With our online volunteer sign-up page, volunteering at The Foodbank has never been easier! We have a variety of activities to choose from, but we have a special need for volunteers to pass out food at our Mobile Farmers Markets and Drive Thru Food Pantry. Sign up today and invite a friend: https://thefoodbankinc.volunteermatters.org/login

 

2. Educate yourself on hunger in America

It can be difficult for some to understand how the wealthiest nation in the world can have a hunger problem — but the hard truth is that over 100,000 people in the Miami Valley experience food insecurity. The story of families living paycheck to paycheck is all too common. After housing, transportation, and utility expenses, there is often not enough leftover to pay for food. By following resources such as Feeding America and the Food Research Access Center (FRAC), you can be more knowledgeable of the ways food insecurity impacts our community.

 

3. Share a #HungerActionMonth post

Education is powerful. We understand that not everyone is able to donate their time or money, but those are not the only ways to get involved during Hunger Action Month. It can be as easy as sharing a social media link to spread the word to your friends that hunger is important! If there’s one thing we know to be true, it is that there are many myths in the food assistance network and we need all the help we can get to debunk them. 

 

4. Make a donation to your local pantry or food bank

Food pantries and food banks both rely on generous donors to keep business running. Whether your donation is food or monetary, it will go directly back into your community to help a family in need. To donate to The Foodbank, please visit thefoodbankdayton.org/donate.

 

5. Contact your local representatives about hunger

Social media and word of mouth are great education sources, we know at The Foodbank that change does not happen in a silo. Reaching out to your local representatives can be the catalyst to making a change. Whether it’s asking for a SNAP increase, additional COVID-19 relief funds, or funding for school pantries, advocating for others truly makes a difference.

 

6. Wear orange

Orange is the official color of Hunger Action Month. By wearing orange you can help spread awareness of hunger and encourage others to also participate. Don’t forget to share a photo on social media and tag @thefoodbankinc! 

 

7. Set up a fundraiser

While it is difficult for us to be together right now, setting up a fundraiser is a great way to keep your organization, office, or team virtually together. Whether it’s a Facebook fundraiser or sites like YouGiveGoods, there are plenty of opportunities for you to make a difference. Leave some fundraiser suggestions for others in the comments below!

 

8. Grow food for you, your neighbors, or food bank

At The Foodbank, we have a 75 raised bed garden full of fresh produce that we grow for the Dayton community. Gardening is a fun and interactive way to get the family working towards a goal. If you want to be a real rockstar, you can even learn how to compost your own food waste to give your garden some extra life!

 

0. Talk to your children about hunger

There are over 30,000 children in the Miami Valley who are identified as food insecure. These children are your neighbors, classmates, and your friends. How can you and your family be advocates for these children? Feeding America has put together a Family Action Plan to assist families in speaking to their children about hunger and how it makes us feel. There are plenty of activities for you and your children to complete together and learn as a family.

 

10. Follow us on social media

Something is always going on here at The Foodbank! Volunteer opportunities, mobile pantries, mass distributions, and fun events are always posted on our social media pages. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIN, and YouTube at thefoodbankinc. 


“Food Pharm” program at Dayton Children’s Hospital addresses childhood food insecurity in-clinic

“Food Pharm” program at Dayton Children’s Hospital addresses childhood food insecurity in-clinic

The program, a partnership between the hospital and The Foodbank, has served almost 1,000 families in the two years since its launch

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

While all households have been impacted in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the worst demands have been placed on families with children.

A study by The Anne E. Casey Foundation detailed the harmful effects of the pandemic on households with children. In September and October 2020, 14% of individuals in households with children reported they sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat. Alarmingly, 34% also reported they had delayed seeking medical care in the previous month.

These figures are a stark reminder that food is a health issue. Prior to the pandemic, families with children in our area already had difficulty accessing enough food to live a healthy, active lifestyle. In 2019, 30,870 children in the Miami Valley were reported food insecure by Feeding America.

Children and adults who experience food insecurity are at higher risk for a host of negative health outcomes. An extensive body of research has demonstrated that children who are food insecure are more likely to be hospitalized, have health concerns such as anemia and malnutrition, and experience mental health issues.

Partnerships between healthcare organizations and community based providers are essential to addressing the intersection between food insecurity and health. One of those partnerships is the Food Pharm program at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Through this program, families with children identified as needing additional food are offered a box of healthy shelf stable food to take home. The Foodbank also supplements the shelf stable food boxes with fresh produce. The contents of the box, which is designed to feed the entire family, were selected by dietitians at Dayton Children’s Hospital. In the two years since its launch, the program has served almost 1,000 families.

Emily Callen, Dayton Children’s Community Food Equity Manager, said that the program has helped Dayton Children’s Hospital to understand the circumstances that lead families to needing food assistance, including natural disasters like the 2019 tornado outbreak, the pandemic, and household financial crises.

“Need arises in so many ways, and everyone is just trying to protect their kids from the realities of their financial struggle and make sure their kids have a meal they enjoy,” Ms. Callen said. “We think our program helps do this for at least a short period of time, while also helping families get connected to longer term resources, so families always have a meal on the table.”

Ms. Callen said she has been able to teach other hospital departments about food insecurity using the program.

“This program allows us to serve the emergency needs of families while they get connected to local food pantries, or other resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC),” Ms. Callen said. “By offering these boxes, it is our hope we can relieve the stress that comes along with food insecurity and help families to focus on whatever medical care they need.”

Moving forward, Ms. Callen is administering a survey to better understand the food needs of the families the program serves. The study will evaluate how well the food boxes meet cultural food needs and inform future food selections. Ms. Callen said, “At the end of the day, if people aren’t eating the food we serve in the boxes, we aren’t feeding hungry people.”

As COVID-19 and the new Delta variant continue to impact families in our community, we will continue to partner with local organizations allied in the fight against hunger. We are grateful to work alongside community organizations, including Dayton Children’s Hospital, that are dedicated to addressing the Social Determinants of Health in our area.

 


Federal assistance programs are especially critical for the disabled community

Federal assistance programs are especially critical for the disabled community

1 in 5 SNAP households has a member with disabilities

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

Despite assistance programs for disabled individuals, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), they are more likely to experience food insecurity than their able-bodied peers. Strikingly, 1 in 5 SNAP households have at least one disabled member.

Studies show that poverty rates are high among disabled Americans. In 2019, the poverty rate for this population was nearly 27%, which was more than twice the rate for able-bodied individuals.

Disabled people also may have difficulties accessing charitable food assistance, including transportation barriers, trouble preparing food received from a pantry, and inaccessible food distribution measures. This can be largely impacted by the type of disability they are living with.

One study from Syracuse University identifies work-limiting disability, physical limitations, and cognitive limitations all increase the risk of food insecurity in their own unique ways.

Those with work-limiting disabilities can use their work history to lean on federal programs like SSDI and SSI. Physical limitations may require more support from community resources like home delivery programs or transportation providers, as their independence may be hindered due to mobility difficulties.

Currently, there are no social programs that address the food needs of those living with cognitive limitations. Memory loss, confusion, and trouble managing money significantly raise the risk of food insecurity in this population.

Federal regulation requires The Foodbank and our partner agencies to ensure equal access for our disabled clients. We also host twice-weekly drive-thru food distributions, which may be a good fit for individuals with mobility issues. 

Despite these accommodations, federal programming, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are especially critical for this population. SNAP allows recipients to purchase food on their own schedule and according to their own preferences or health-related dietary concerns.

It is also worthy to note that food insecurity, for disabled and able-bodied people alike, is a public health issue. One study found that disabled individuals who also experienced food insecurity were more likely to report poor physical health, poor mental health, and underutilization of health care services.

 

SNAP: Strengths and Limitations

SNAP currently includes measures that support individuals experiencing food insecurity. People who qualify for SSI or SSDI automatically qualify for SNAP benefits as well. 

However, not everyone who qualifies for this program receives these benefits. Research indicates that only 68% of people who receive SSI also receive SNAP benefits. The application process for SNAP can be a barrier for this population.

The Foodbank conducts SNAP application assistance to help streamline the process and pre-screen clients for eligibility. Those interested in applying for SNAP are encouraged to call our hotline at 937-476-1486 or fill out the online interest form here

While organizations like The Foodbank that conduct SNAP outreach can help more people access these benefits, simpler solutions exist. Some states have implemented Combined Application Projects (CAP), which help people apply for both SSI and SNAP at the same time. 

Disabled individuals who receive SNAP benefits, or who are 60 years or older, are also able to deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses over $35 from their countable income, which can help them qualify for a higher SNAP benefit. However, this deduction is underutilized: only 9 percent of SNAP households with disabled members claimed this deduction.

According to the Food Research Access Center, there are two major ways this issue can be addressed. One is for organizations serving disabled individuals to conduct outreach to increase awareness of the deduction, and another is for states to implement a Standard Medical Deduction (SMD). 

The SMD provides a standardized amount to individuals who are able to verify expenses over $35 per month. This amount varies based on which state has implemented the policy. The SMD also prevents recipients from having to track every medical expense that may qualify for the deduction, which can be burdensome.

Disabled people and able-bodied people alike can also benefit from the same improvements to SNAP. These include measures that simplify application and recertification processes, provide greater access to prepared foods, and increased benefit payments.

To learn more about how federal food programs can be more inclusive for disabled people, visit Feeding America’s resource here.

 


Three updates to federal nutrition programs for children

Three updates to federal nutrition programs for children

Everything you need to know about changes to P-EBT, student lunches, and summer meals

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

In recent months, the United States Department of Agriculture has announced several extensions to temporary provisions to serve children during the pandemic. These include policies related to The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

Here’s what you need to know about eligibility to these programs:

  1. P-EBT extended through summer

The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), which provides additional funds for qualifying families with children, has been extended through summer 2021.

Families who qualify will receive two payments of $375 in benefits for each child. Families already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or P-EBT should have received their benefits on their existing card June 30. First-time recipients should receive a new card mid-July.

There is no application process for this program. If you believe you qualify and have not received additional funds, call the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services Hotline at 1-866-244-0071.

Children who meet any of the following criteria will qualify for the additional summer benefits:

  • Children eligible for free or reduced cost meals at school
  • Children who attend a school where every child receives free meals
  • Children under the age of six in SNAP households

Receiving P-EBT benefits will not impact your immigration status. As of April 2021, the public charge rule — which barred visa applicants determined at risk of becoming dependent on government assistance — is no longer in effect.

For more information on P-EBT, visit http://ohiopebt.org/.

 

2. National school lunch program to include all students next school year

The Ohio Department of Education received approval from the United States Department of Agriculture to offer free lunch and free breakfast to all students at schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) for the 2021-2022 school year.

To see if your school district participates in the NSLP, you can search this database here: http://ohiopebt.org/NSLP.php.

We are pleased to see this step towards ensuring that every child has enough to eat while at school. Students who experience food insecurity are more likely to experience other challenges, including attendance issues, worse educational outcomes, and poor physical and mental health.

Making school lunches free for all students eliminates the burden of applying, which can be a barrier for low-income households. It also addresses the issue of student lunch debt and the issue of “lunch shaming,” when students are given alternate meals or otherwise singled out for not having lunch money.

School lunches provide important nutritional support to all students. One study released this year found that schools were the single greatest source of healthy meals for children.

 

3. Summer meal waivers extended

The USDA has extended waivers to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) that allow for more flexibility at sites.

This program, which provides free healthy meals in low-income areas during summer months, was designed to prevent children and teens from going hungry when school is not in session. These sites serve anyone 18 and younger.

The waivers include:

  • Meals can be picked up or delivered, rather than being eaten on-site
  • Meals may be served outside standard times
  • Parents and guardians are allowed to pick up meals on behalf of their children
  • Waives the requirement that “open sites” be located in areas where at least half of children are in low-income households.

To find a summer meal site near you, use this search tool.

 


Pride Month: Highlighting hunger in LGBT households

 Pride Month: Highlighting hunger in LGBT households

LGBT individuals face elevated rates of food insecurity compared to their straight and cisgender peers.

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

June is Pride month, where we celebrate the LGBT community and the freedom to live life unapologetically yourself. The Foodbank values all people without judgement, and we are committed to advocacy work that strives to provide everyone with a healthy, happy, just, and safe life. 

Many efforts have been made towards equality for the LGBT community, but there is still a long way to go. Like most marginalized communities, LGBT individuals are disproportionately affected by food insecurity. 

One study by the Williams Institute found that 27% of LGBT individuals experienced food insecurity the previous year, compared to 17% of their straight and cisgender (the term used to describe people who are not trans) peers. Strikingly, 18% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual  individuals surveyed reported that they or someone in their family went without food for an entire day in the prior month.

LGBT adults are 1.62 times more likely than non-LGBT adults, on average, to report not having enough money for the food that they or their families needed at some point in the last year. 

There are disparities present within the LGBTQ community as well: a 2019 study, also by the Williams Institute, found that rates of food insecurity were highest among transgender individuals and cisgender bisexual women.

There are racial disparities present within the LGBT community as well: The 2016 study found that among LGBT individuals, 42% of African American people, 33% of Hispanic people, 32% of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and 21% of Whites reported not having enough money for food in the past year.

Food insecurity rates were also higher among disabled people and younger LGBTQ individuals.

Cultural factors also play a large role in the food insecurity rates of LGBT individuals. A study published by Transgender Health found that the sociopolitical climate of the Southeast United States made it difficult for transgender and noncomforming individuals to find and maintain employment, which is a primary driving factor of food insecurity. 

Food insecurity has many other detrimental impacts on one’s well being. Stress from unemployment and underemployment, inadequate food supplies, and discrimination was reported as a contributor to poor physical and mental health, and weakened support systems. 

To offset the public health impacts of discrimination against LGBT individuals, Transgender Health recommended implementing employment nondiscrimination policies to protect trans and gender nonconforming people in the workplace. The organization also saw a need for building relationships between local food pantries and LGBT organizations to create safer environments for all persons in need of food assistance.

De’Ja Durham, MSW, is the Southern Region Program Manager for Equitas Health, an organization that offers health and other services for the LGBT community. She manages housing advocacy in Newark, Dayton, Portsmith, and Athens Ohio. Ms. Durham said she has seen clients who experience food insecurity amidst unexpected financial hardship.

“Unexpected costs not only affect mortgage, rent, but also affect affording food, toiletries, personal items, and other expenses,” Ms. Durham said. “We have a lot of clients who are homeless and are using food pantries to be able to put just a simple meal on the table.”

Among these clients, discrimination related to their LGBT identity can contribute to challenges around housing, substance abuse, and food insecurity.

“I know at least a handful of clients who are homeless due to family putting them out due to being LGBT or transgender. I know clients who have turned to substance abuse as a result of not being accepted,” Ms. Durham said. “If people don’t understand them due to the community they are a part of, or if they don’t feel comfortable attending work, they don’t have means to have income to afford food. We have a handful of clients who have told their significant other (about their LGBT identity) in the midst of their transition and may lose housing that way. They can go from being able to afford the food they need to having nothing.”

To better serve individuals in the LGBT community, Ms. Durham said that organizations should participate in bias training and training on the use of gender-affirming pronouns. Equitas Health Institute offers a variety of trainings on their website, https://equitashealthinstitute.com/.

“A lot of people have issues with saying, ‘I don’t see color,’ or ‘I don’t see gender,” Ms. Durham said. “But you should see me for who I am and accept me for who I am.”

We know that true progress towards equality cannot be done without policy and legislation change.

A study done by the Center for American Progress found that LGBT Americans receive SNAP benefits at over twice the rate of their non-LGBT counterparts. A SNAP household includes anyone living together that purchases and prepares their food together. This allows the many LGBT individuals who have a “chosen family” of loved ones that may not be related by blood to receive benefits.

Health disparities are a large concern for members of the LGBT community who are more likely to be uninsured than their counterparts. Transgender women and gay or bisexual men face higher rates of HIV than any other demographic. Medicaid expansion and access to affordable healthcare of all kinds is a life-saving measure for many LGBT Americans. 

As Ms. Durham mentioned, many LGBT individuals face homelessness because of stigma and discrimination in their personal lives. Unfortunately, these individuals are widely discriminated against in some homeless shelters and rental/housing markets. Access to affordable, but most importantly safe, housing is crucial to the wellbeing of these individuals facing personal trauma. 

This Pride month, and every month, we encourage you to bring those extra seats to the table for those who need it most. 


The American Rescue Plan and new USDA policies support increased food security

The American Rescue Plan and new USDA policies support increased food security

How a recent flurry of policies at the federal level help us do our work

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

In the past month, we have received a lot of encouraging news from Washington about positive changes that have the potential to impact food insecurity rates in the United States. These policies cover a wide variety of programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, debt relief for farmers, and more.

Here is our rundown on some of the latest policies coming out Washington:

The American Rescue Plan includes critical support for nutrition assistance programs.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), signed into law March 3, 2021, includes sweeping measures to strengthen nutrition assistance programs. These are programs anti-hunger advocates have focused on for years to reduce food insecurity in the United States.

Here some of the measures included in this legislation:

  • The extension of the 15% boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) through September 2021
  • The extension of Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits through the summer to support families with children who typically rely on school meals
  • $500 million in funding for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • $37 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP, commonly known as Senior Food Boxes) to support the nutrition of low-income seniors

Researchers at the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University have projected that these policies, combined with others within the scope of the act (including unemployment insurance expansions and the Child Tax Credit) will cut child poverty in half.

The Foodbank, Inc. applauds the passage of these measures. While we are glad to see fewer people seeking food assistance than this time last year, many families in our area are still struggling with lost income, exhausted savings accounts, and increased debt.

In addition to lifting families out of poverty, benefits that are spent directly at grocery stores — which includes SNAP, P-EBT, and WIC programming — have a demonstrated stimulus effect on the economy. According to research from the USDA, every $1 spent on SNAP increases GDP between $.80 and $1.50.

USDA takes a closer look at equity for farmers of color.

The American Rescue Plan also includes $4 billion for debt relief for historically disadvantaged farmers and an additional $1 billion for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create a racial equity commission.

While some conservative lawmakers have taken aim at this portion of the ARP, this funding is intended to offset the USDA’s history of racial discrimination against farmers of color.

There is extensive evidence that the department has discriminated against Black, Indgenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers. A 1994 review of USDA loans and payments found that loans to Black males averaged $4,000 (25%) less than those to white males. Additionally, less than 1% of disaster payments went to Black farmers. The situation came to a head in the Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit, which culminated in one of the largest ever class action settlements in US history.

Advocates have pointed out that discrimination by the USDA has likely contributed to a decline in Black farmers over time. At peak in 1910, 14.6% of all farmers were Black. By 2012, the percent of Black farmers had declined 98% to only 1.6% of the total population. This racial discrimination did not start in the 1990s, either: It has roots in the Reconstruction era, when Black families were promised “40 acres and a mule” and instead were forced into sharecropping.

We are acutely aware that racial inequity is one of the driving factors of food insecurity. As participants in the larger food system, and recipients of USDA-funded product, we are glad to see Congress and the USDA working to provide reparations for past misdeeds and ensure greater inclusion in agriculture.

USDA increases SNAP benefits to lowest-income households.

The USDA announced April 1 that the department would increase SNAP benefits to households already receiving the maximum SNAP benefit, providing $1 billion per month in assistance to an estimated 25 million people.

This decision is a reversal of the Trump-era policy in which all SNAP households were issued the maximum monthly benefit. While this policy provided important support to many SNAP households, the lowest-income households who already received the maximum benefit received no increase.

Beginning in April, households that had not received at least $95/month in increased benefits will be awarded additional benefits.

According to the USDA, “Among households that [previously] received little to no benefit increase, about 40% have children, 20% include someone who is elderly and 15% include someone who is disabled.”

Research has demonstrated that SNAP households in the lowest income brackets are most likely to spend all their benefits, maximizing the stimulus effect of the program.

We are glad to see these changes applied to the SNAP emergency allotment system to ensure that very low-income households are not excluded from receiving additional benefits.

The Foodbank works with a variety of allied organizations, including Feeding America and the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, to provide education about the impact of public policies on our programming. To stay up to date on our advocacy efforts, follow us on Twitter at @thefoodbankinc.

 


How the pandemic has worsened existing inequalities

How the pandemic has worsened existing inequalities

It is more important now than ever before for food banks to address systemic inequality

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

There are many positive signs that the hardships of the pandemic are easing. More and more people have been vaccinated. Many businesses have reopened. We are relieved that our lines are much shorter than they were one year ago.

While we are hopeful for the future, we also know that for many households in our line, it will take much longer to rebuild.

At its core, food insecurity is an money issue. Food insecurity is, in many ways, a symptom of other evils, including poverty and generational inequality. While providing a box of food may help a household stretch their income and afford other expenses, such as utility bills and medication, it will not push them into the next income bracket.

The United States is widely considered a wealthy nation. However, that wealth is not shared by all who live within its borders. At the height of the pandemic, Feeding America estimated that over 50 million people were food insecure. At the same time, the top five billionaires saw a 59% increase in their wealth.

In many ways, the pandemic has reinforced existing inequalities. In figures recently released by the federal reserve, Black households had a median net worth of less than 15 percent that of white households.

Historically, families of color have been subjected to a wide variety of racist policies and practices, such as redlining, discriminatory lending, and mass incarceration, which have made it more difficult to accumulate wealth. Contrary to the “bootstraps” mentality, our nation’s past transgressions continue to have an impact on current generations: Researchers have estimated at least half of all wealth in the United States is transferred via bequests and other gifts.

The economic impacts of the pandemic have been disproportionately borne by low-income households and people of color. On average, households in the United States have actually increased their savings amidst the pandemic.

According to a Harvard-based research study, households with higher incomes reduced their spending by 17%, while low income households only reduced their spending by 4% in the same time period. Additionally, almost 70% of low-wage workers in zipcodes with the highest rent lost their jobs during the additional shutdown.

Given this data, it comes as no surprise that nearly 14% of Americans exhausted their emergency savings during the pandemic. This trend will make households impacted less resilient in future crises.

The disparate impact of the pandemic on US families is reflected in lines at The Foodbank and other food assistance programs. According to the Urban Institute, Black and Hispanic/Latino households were more than three times as likely to access charitable food assistance during the year 2020. The author of the brief wrote that this is “likely reflecting both higher rates of need before the pandemic and the recession’s significant impact on households of color.”

As we have mentioned before, food insecurity can also lead to poor health outcomes and perpetuate the poverty cycle. The high-carb, low-nutrient diet and other dangerous “coping mechanisms,” such as medication underutilization, that are associated with food insecurity can lead to preventable health problems down the road.

Unfortunately, this cycle begins at childhood at no fault of the children. A study by the Alliance to End Hunger found that schools with 90% white children spend $733 more per child than schools with 90% children of color. These dollars affect critical programs like school lunches, where schools that have a high percentage of students of color are half as likely to adopt healthy lunch options as the schools with majority white students.

All of these inequalities are a direct result of the laws, policies, and procedures that have been implemented for decades. There is no shortage of food in the United States, which regularly wastes 30-40% of the food it produces. Because food insecurity is not caused by a lack of food, it cannot be solved long-term by providing food alone.

Policy interventions have had a demonstrated effect on the severity of food insecurity amidst the pandemic. According to The Urban Institute, food insecurity dipped in May after the first stimulus checks were released, dropping from 22 percent to 17.9 percent. Then, rates rebounded to 19.6 percent from May to September. This relationship demonstrates that while relief packages have been effective, the “start and stop” pattern they are released in contributes to related fluctuations in food insecurity.

Given the severity of the inequalities present in the economic crisis, it is important now more than ever that food banks and other anti-hunger or anti-poverty organizations advocate for systemic change, partner to address the social determinants of health, and continue to disprove harmful myths about poverty in the United States. We should also be careful to set our expectations for recovery: Many lessons can be taken from the recovery curve of the Great Recession, which lasted about 10 years.

While early signs of economic recovery are positive, we must pay close attention to the data we use to ensure that no group is left out of recovery. We are hopeful that this recovery will be faster than the most recent recession.

The Foodbank takes part in a variety of activities to address the root causes of hunger. While food assistance plays an invaluable role in ensuring that “no one should go hungry,” the long-term issue of food insecurity cannot be solved with food alone. For more information about our work, we invite you to read the following previous blog posts:

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

●     Shortening the line: why we hire re-entry

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

 


Evaluating our reach with data

Evaluating our reach with data

The Foodbank recently underwent a Service Gap Map in partnership with the University of Dayton

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

There is a question we hear a lot: “With three counties, how do you make sure you are serving everyone who needs help?”

It’s a valid question — while our headquarters in the city of Dayton is our highest-need and most-populated area, our three-county service area spans a diverse territory with varying needs. We serve communities that are urban and rural, high-poverty and seemingly affluent, and communities of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. So how do we make sure we are investing where we need to?

The answer: the only way we can make sure we are equitably allocating our resources is to do it with data.

The Foodbank recently underwent a Service Gap Map in partnership with The University of Dayton. We periodically take this measure to evaluate the changing landscape of food insecurity in our community. It is also an important tool to assess how effective our own distribution of services is.

“We want to make a difference in the world, and there’s no better place to start than in our hometown of Dayton,” said Dr. Cori Mowrey, Department of Engineering Management, Systems, and Technology from the University of Dayton.

Dr. Mowrey went on to say, “Our team is very excited to partner with The Foodbank to develop data-driven, evidence based solutions to serve the needs of our Miami Valley community. We are committed to continuing this work to ensure equitable access to The Foodbank and their partner agencies’ resources.”

As a result of this analysis, we obtained the following map of Montgomery County, created using GPSVisualizer.com, OpenStreetMap.org, and US Census data:

Across all three counties, the University of Dayton team found that we have a 97%* coverage rate by headcount of food insecure individuals. This is good news: We were concerned that recent events, such as the 2019 Memorial Day Tornado Outbreak, would have a significant impact on the landscape of need in our area.

We have made the above map available to the public via press release. We believe this information is valuable to many stakeholders in the community, and we embrace the transparency that this data provides from an evaluation standpoint.

However, we are concerned for the locations that were identified as underserved. In Montgomery County, these areas were Vandalia, Englewood, and Phillipsburg. In response, The Foodbank has added two new monthly Mobile Farmer’s Market sites this week to ensure that the food needs of these communities are being met.

These new mobiles will take place at Living Word Church (Vandalia) and Englewood Christian Assembly (Englewood). Due to the close proximity of Philipsburg to Englewood as well as its relatively low population, we anticipate that clients in that area will be able to access the Englewood mobile.

To view the dates and times of these and other mobiles, visit https://thefoodbankdayton.org/needfood/.

We have made the choice to release this map in stages while we evaluate how to serve communities identified as needing additional food resources. While our Mobile Farmers Markets are an excellent way to distribute food in high-need areas, the heart of our operation is the acquisition and distribution of food to our partner agencies.

As a more permanent solution, we prefer to work with organizations that are already active in those communities to stand up brick-and-mortar pantries. Our agency relations team works closely with a variety of community organizations to help them to provide services in these areas.

For a list of these partner agencies, visit https://thefoodbankdayton.org/agencies/. If you are interested in becoming a member of The Foodbank, please contact Jamie Robinson at jrobinson@thefoodbankdayton.org or by calling (937) 461-0265 x 14

 

*Preliminary results showed an expected coverage rate of 95%. The actual rate given by the University of Dayton team showed 97.3% coverage by headcount.

 


How Foodbanking has Changed

How Foodbanking has Changed

Three ways foodbanking has changed in the COVID-19 era

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

Over the course of the pandemic, there have been news stories across the nation of long food bank lines and an increase in demand like we have never seen before. But the nature of foodbanking has not always looked like this.

While we have all been adapting to a “new normal” at work and at home, those of us in foodbanking have also shifted the way we operate. We believe many of these changes are here to stay. Here are the top four ways foodbanking has changed in the COVID-19 era.

1. Food banks have had to shift emphasis to a direct service model.

Generally, we serve families in the community through two programming “buckets”. The first bucket is the distribution of food to partner agencies, which include 116 food pantries, hot meal sites, and other hunger relief agencies in the Miami Valley. This bucket is codified in our mission statement: “The Foodbank relieves hunger in the community through a network of partner agencies by acquiring and distributing food.”

However, there are some areas that have fewer resources. The second programming “bucket,” direct service, comprises interventions we make in those areas to meet any gaps. These include Mobile Farmers Markets, Mass Food Distributions, our on-site Drive Thru Food Pantry, and programs targeted to vulnerable demographics, such as our Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP, or Senior Food Box program).

At the height of the pandemic, our area saw an estimated 28% increase in reported food insecurity. At the same time, about 40% of our partner agencies were forced to suspend services due to a variety of difficulties, such as the closure of their facilities or the health concerns of their older, high-risk volunteer base. Some of these agencies still have yet to reopen.

In response, we have drastically increased service through our Drive Thru and Mass Distributions. In calendar year 2020, the number of people served through our Drive Thru more than doubled compared to the previous year, while the total number of people served by our agency pantries increased less than 5%.

 

2. Food banks have invested in capacity across the board 

With a significant increase in demand, many food banks have had to make large investments in their infrastructure in order to keep up. Our warehouse was built in 2014 and was designed to process up to 10 million pounds of food annually. We have consistently exceeded that amount, distributing 17.9 million pounds last fiscal year

To support this increased distribution of food, we have had to make significant investments in our capacity. In the past year, we have unveiled two new trucks and expanded our headquarters to accommodate additional staffing. We have grown from a team of just over 20 people to more than 50 strong.

Thankfully, donations from the public and grants have enabled us and other food banks to make these necessary expansions. Our partnership with Feeding America, the national network of food banks, has been more beneficial than ever this past year: To date, we have received over $1 million in COVID-19 related funding through Feeding America, much of it directed to improving our capacity.

Because the Foodbank originated as a Red Cross subsidiary, the foundation of our service model is disaster relief. We have a Disaster Plan in effect that allows us to respond quickly and efficiently to both local and national disasters. With the infrastructure improvements we have made in the past year, we will be better equipped to respond to disasters in the future.

 

3. Food banks are expanding services with an equity lens

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, food banks across the US released statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Simultaneously, the COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on the health disparities between communities of color and the white community. We and other food banks are taking steps to operationalize a more equity-focused mission.

The Foodbank values all people without judgement. We are not new to equity work. We deliberately hire and cultivate a diverse staff that includes people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, and people from various other backgrounds. We actively recruit team members who have previously been incarcerated. About one third of our current Foodbank team joined this hunger relief work after exiting the criminal justice system.

While systemic racism and inequality may be a new topic for some individuals in the nonprofit sector, it is a familiar reality to many of the people in our lines. We understand that racism is a contributing factor to differences in food insecurity among white and nonwhite households. African Americans are more than twice as likely to experience hunger in the United States.

In addition to participating in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion training, we are taking steps to build equity into our services. The Foodbank recently participated in a service gap map with the University of Dayton. This research study allows us to pinpoint communities that have fewer available resources. In a service territory that is still largely segregated, this is a valuable tool to assess how well we are serving diverse communities.

We are eager to learn and share more about EDI work as we continue down this path.

While 2020 was an immensely difficult year, the lessons learned and long-term investments made will help us to be more resilient, innovative, and adaptable in the future. Down the line, we hope to see a future in which hunger is not a reality for millions of Americans.

To learn more about or work, read our community impact statement here.