Inflation Escalates Hunger

Inflation escalates hunger

As the cost of groceries increases, so does food insecurity

By Amber Wright, Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Key Points of Inflation

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

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

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

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

 

What This Means for Us and the Neighbors We Serve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Incarceration and Food Insecurity

Incarceration and Food Insecurity

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

By Amber Wright, Marketing

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

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

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


Importance of Proper Nutrition

Inadequate nutrition has been linked to several consequences such as:

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

 

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

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

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

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


Collateral Consequences

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

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


Barriers to Housing

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

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


Barriers Employment

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

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

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


Barriers to Benefits

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

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

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

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


Why This Matters

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

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

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

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

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

 


Food Insecurity in Women-Led Households

Food Insecurity in Women-Led Households

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

By Amber Wright, Development and Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Black History-in-the-Making: Tae Winston

Black History-in-the-Making: Tae Winston

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

 

By Amber Wright, Development and Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tae Winston: Entrepreneur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The long shadow of the “welfare queen” narrative

The long shadow of the “welfare queen” narrative

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

By Emily Gallion, Grants & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager

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

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

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

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

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

Demonization of Black Welfare Recipients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Welfare Queen Myth

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

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

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

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

A Lasting Legacy

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

Stated Goals of Temporary assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Thoughts

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

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

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


Photos: Looking back on a summer of Mass Food Distributions

Photos: Looking back on a summer of Mass Food Distributions

 For the first time, we were able to offer health services alongside our biggest food distributions this year

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

For several years, we have operated three Mass Food Distributions each summer. These large-scale distributions were conceptualized to increase the amount of fresh produce available in our three-county service area.

This year, we have expanded the Mass Food Distributions to include wrap-around services, including COVID-19 vaccinations, health screenings, mammograms, and HIV testing, from our partners. We are grateful to partner with Miami Valley organizations who share our emphasis in addressing the social determinants of health.

In addition, we held four “bonus” distributions this year at the Dixie Twin Drive In. At all seven of these Mass Food Distributions combined, we served a total of 3,875 households and distributed over 400,000 pounds of food.

Thank you to our partners CareSource, Dayton Children’s Hospital, Premier Health, Public Health, Equitas Health, Moms2B, SICSA, Preschool Promise, Oak Street Health for making these events possible.

Check out these photos from our distributions this summer:


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.

 


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.