The Foodbank unveils new Beverly K. Greenehouse

The Foodbank unveils new Beverly K. Greenehouse

The new facility, funded with generous support from the Greene family, will produce an estimated 100,000 heads of lettuce per year

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

Last week, our Foodbank family was excited to unveil a new 6,000 square foot Beverly K Greenehouse, which will be equipped with an aquaponics system and used to grow plants year-round.

The greenhouse has 800 grow channels and will produce approximately 80,000 plants, mainly heads of lettuce and herb bundles, per year. Lettuce is a crop that is popular among Foodbank clients, but it is difficult to procure due to its short shelf life.

This project is a gift from the Greene family in honor of Beverly Greene, who passed away in 2019 after a long fight with cancer.

“It is an honor to be naming this greenhouse after my mother,” Beverly Greene’s son, Charlie Greene, said. “She cared about our community and instilled strength in people to stand up for what was right. I know she is proud of this dedication that will serve our community fresh food every day throughout the Miami Valley area.”

The Greene family poses in The Foodbank’s Urban Garden after a hard day’s work.

The winter months pose a challenge for our garden, which significantly impacts the amount of fresh produce we are able to grow and distribute directly. Not only will this greenhouse benefit operations here at The Foodbank, but it will help our clients as well. Healthy, fresh items should be available on a year-round basis, not just during the growing season.

Using a hydroponics system, plants will grow without the use of any soil. Water travels through a system of piping and delivers nutrients directly to each plant. Maintaining proper soil conditions during the winter is difficult given the temperature fluctuations, so this method of growing completely eliminates that barrier.

When we first bought this land in 2014, we never envisioned that our city block would turn into the community resource it is today. With projects like the greenhouse, we can teach our community that you don’t need acres of farmland or even 6,000 square foot greenhouses to grow your own food — everything can be done to scale in your own home.

“We feel incredibly honored to keep Beverly’s memory alive through this gift, and to have also made friends with the Greene family,” Michelle Riley, The Foodbank CEO, said. “The Greene family understands and recognizes the need in this community, and they are passionate about food and the environment.”

We are incredibly grateful to have community partners who believe in our mission deeply enough to assist us with projects like this one. HEAPY Sustainability and Energy Services strives to integrate smart technology into environments like ours. They were a key partner in making this greenhouse happen.

“HEAPY is committed to building a more resilient, well, and sustainable society, so we are thrilled to donate our design services to build the Beverly K. Greenehouse and provide healthy, affordable food resources to the surrounding Dayton community,” said Mark Brumfield, CEO of HEAPY.

This vision could not have been possible without the support of our other key partners: Danis Construction; Chapel Electric Company; MSD, INC; CropKing, Inc; AC Elliot; and LL Klink.

 


“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.

 


Volunteering at The Foodbank: 101

Volunteering at The Foodbank: 101

Everything you need to know before a volunteer shift

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

Volunteers are the heart of The Foodbank. They are critical to our operations by helping us pack boxes, harvesting crops and maintaining our Urban Garden, and staffing each of our distributions. In March of 2020, due to COVID-19 safety concerns, we had to make the difficult decision to pause our volunteer program. As of July 1, 2021 we have officially relaunched our volunteer program with mask and social distancing requirements in order to keep safety our top priority. We are so excited to see all of your smiling faces again!

Whether you’re a company, organization, family, or someone looking for community service hours, we have plenty of options to choose from! Volunteering at The Foodbank is a great way to make connections and make a direct impact on our community.

We’ve broken down the process in this easy to follow guide, and give you some pointers along the way.

Step one: Logging in and Signing Up

When you visit the Volunteer page on our website, you can see all of our opportunities on our host site, Volunteer Matters.

If you’ve volunteered with us before, you know what to do from here. If you’re new here, you’ll need to create an account so we can get your name, emergency contact, and other basic information from you.

While we accept volunteers of all ages, you must be at least 14 years old to work in our warehouse or drive thru, and anyone under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a guardian. Additionally, we ask that you wear close-toed shoes for safety reasons. 

Step two: Picking Your Event

Once you’ve logged in or signed up, you will be taken to the Volunteer Matters homepage. By clicking on “Project Catalog” on the left hand side, you’ll be able to see all of our events.

Each opportunity has a general description of the volunteer role available. For example, if you decide you’d like to work in our drive thru, click “Learn More” where you can see all of the dates and times available. To sign up, just click “Volunteer!”

A few things to note before signing up for your shift:

  • All mobile pantries are held outside, so please remember to dress for the weather and keep yourself hydrated! 
  • Mass distributions are also outside, usually consisting of longer shifts, but are a whole lot of fun! Dress for the weather and make sure to take water and snack breaks.
  • Warehouse opportunities, the drive thru, mobile pantries, and mass distributions can include some heavy lifting. Though we do distribute lightweight items, please keep this in mind. 
  • Restrooms may not be available at some of our mobile pantry locations.
  • Be sure to wear your close-toed shoes to all volunteer opportunities.
  • Use hashtags #hungerhero and #canyoudigit on any social media posts you make!

Step 3: Coming Prepared for Your Shift

Be sure to arrive on time prepared to work for the entirety of your shift. If you are signed up for a mobile pantry or mass distribution, you’ll need to find our volunteer team to make sure you get signed in. If you’re on site to work in our warehouse, urban garden, or drive thru, you will sign in at the front door. 

After you are signed in, a member of our team will assign you a task depending on which event you signed up for. For example, you could be assigned to the food line handing out various items or helping direct traffic. Our volunteer team is great about making sure you find the opportunity that is the best fit for you!

If you need paperwork signed for required community service hours, make sure to check in with our volunteer team before you leave. 

We always encourage you to ask us questions and learn more about the impact you’re making no matter what volunteer experience you choose. Above all, we want you to HAVE FUN when you’re with us. Volunteering is hard work, but there is nothing better than hearing your laughter while talking to each other and engaging with clients.

Still have questions? Give us a call at 937-461-0265 ext. 27 or check out our Youtube video to learn more.


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.

 


Recent legislation provides support for summer meal programs

Recent legislation provides support for summer meal programs

How to locate summer meal sites near you

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

While local schools look forward to closing down for summer break, students who typically rely on breakfast and lunch during the school year may be left wondering where their next meal is coming from. Thanks to an extension of funding from the USDA, students and their families will have a weight taken off their shoulders this summer.

The United States Department of Agriculture recently announced the extension of free summer meal programs through September 2021. This announcement will benefit Dayton area programs working to provide healthy meals to students throughout the summer months when school is not in session.

This funding will also include schools who, pre-pandemic, may not have qualified to provide summer meals to their students in previous years. Beavercreek City Schools is one district who did not previously qualify, but are now looking forward to organizing meal distributions for students after an especially challenging year. 

During the school year, many schools provide additional food assistance by issuing weekend backpacks. Feed the Creek, Blessings in a Bag, and the Kettering Backpack Program are some examples of school-ran programs aimed at sending nutritious food home with children at risk of food insecurity. 

The Foodbank’s own Good-to-Go Backpack Program aims to fill the gap for schools who cannot provide their own backpack program. Each week The Foodbank distributes over 750 backpacks to local schools, which are then distributed to children identified by a school administrator. Each pack is filled with foods intended to feed the student through the weekend.

While these programs offer a security net during the school year, students no longer have these guaranteed meals once school is out for the summer. 

According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the nationwide food insecurity rate by 17 million people. In The Foodbank’s service area of Montgomery, Greene, and Preble counties, 1 in 5 children struggle with food insecurity. Summer meal programs will be critical for families still trying to recover from the added hardships brought on by the pandemic. 

There are over 50 free meal sites in the Dayton area alone. Emerson Academy, Immaculate Conception, and Kettering Fairmont High School are just some of the sites that allow all children aged 1-18 years to receive a free meal throughout the summer. Some programs are even offering multiple meals a day.

Families looking to find a summer meal site may do so by using this site locator or by contacting their school’s administration.

Earlier in the 2020-21 school year we saw the creation of a new Pandemic-EBT program that allowed for a crucial line of defense against childhood hunger. This temporary program distributes SNAP benefits to school aged children who qualify for free or reduced school lunch. 

The electronic funds can be used at any retailer that accepts regular SNAP benefits and can be used on eligible items such as dairy, fruits, vegetables, protein, and more. For each day that school was closed due to the pandemic, children will receive $6.82 on their P-EBT card. 

Additionally, children under 6 years old currently living in a household that qualifies for SNAP are also eligible for P-EBT benefits beginning April 2021. To see if your family qualifies, visit the program’s website

As Americans work to regain a sense of stability after the pandemic, having resources that allow a form of financial relief can be vital to one’s quality of life. Hunger does not operate in a silo and it is important to acknowledge all of the organizations working to ensure that no one goes hungry.

The Foodbank and its 106 partner agencies provide food assistance year-round and is always available free of charge. For more information on how to receive food, visit our website.

 


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.

 


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.

 


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mobile Pantries

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

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

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

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

 

Partner Agencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Up next

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

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

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

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

 

Where in the world is The Foodbank, Inc.?

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

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

The Washington Post:The next threat: Hunger in America

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

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

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


Composting begins at The Foodbank

Composting begins at The Foodbank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple represents location of The Foodbank

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

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

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

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