How We Stock Our Shelves

How we stock our shelves

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

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

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

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

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

Food Drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food Rescue 

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

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

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

Federal and State Commodities

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

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

Here is a breakdown of different commodities we receive:

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

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

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

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

Food Purchases

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

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

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

Urban Gardening

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

Why we see so many veterans in our lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hunger Action Month 2020: ending hunger one helping at a time

Hunger Action Month 2020: ending hunger one helping at a time

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

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

Hunger Action Month, established by Feeding America in 2008, aims to rally Americans around this issue of food insecurity in America. In 2018, over 37 million individuals were identified as food insecure in Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap study

In the wake of COVID-19, Feeding America estimated that total would rise to 54 million.

We know that 2020 has been an unusual year. Many of the activities we typically recommend in September, such as hosting events, are high risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve compiled a list of COVID-friendly Hunger Action Month activities instead.

Educate yourself on hunger in America

It can be difficult for some to understand how the wealthiest nation in the world can have a hunger problem — but the hard truth is that hunger exists as close as your neighborhood. The story of families living paycheck to paycheck is all too common. After housing, transportation, and utility expenses, there is oftentimes not enough leftover to pay for food. By educating yourself on these sobering realities, you can better understand how to help others.

Share a #HungerActionMonth post

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

Make a donation to your local pantry or food bank

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

Contact your local representatives about hunger

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

Wear orange on Hunger Action Day

While the entire month of September is focused on taking action to end hunger, Feeding America has also declared a Hunger Action Day– which falls on September 10th this year. By wearing orange you can help spread awareness of Hunger Action Month and encourage others to also participate in ending hunger. 

Volunteer

Due to social distancing guidelines, some organizations are not accepting volunteers to ensure everyone’s safety. While you cannot volunteer in our warehouse, we have off-site and virtual opportunities that still allow you to help your community. Keep an eye out on our website and social media pages to keep up to date with upcoming opportunities. 

Set up a fundraiser

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

Grow food for you, your neighbors, or food bank

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

Talk to your children about hunger

There are 32,750 children in the Miami Valley who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. These children are your neighbors, classmates, and your friends. How can you and your family be advocates for these children? Feeding America has put together a Family Action Plan to assist families in speaking to their children about hunger and how it makes us feel. There are plenty of activities for you and your children to complete together and learn as a family.

Follow us on social media

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


Foodbanking facts and myths

Foodbanking facts and myths

Debunking some of the most common misconceptions about visiting pantries and easing the stigma around food assistance

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

It can be intimidating to seek food assistance for the first time — but the experience doesn’t have to be scary. Last year, 935,404 total people received food through a Foodbank program. While we are aware of the stigma associated with visiting a pantry, our team is here to make the process as comfortable as possible.

Today, we will debunk some of the most common myths about hunger and visiting food pantries.

MYTH: A food bank is the same as a food pantry

FACT: Food banks serve as a central warehouse for a network of hunger relief organizations, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters. While some food banks may have an on-site food pantry, the two are not the same. Generally, a food bank is an organization responsible for acquiring and distributing food to smaller organizations, while food pantries provide groceries directly to families. The Foodbank acquires and distributes food to a network of 116 of these hunger relief agencies. Visit www.thefoodbankdayton.org/needfood to find one nearest you.

 

MYTH: You have to apply to receive food from The Foodbank

FACT: While some Foodbank programs, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), require an application, you do not need to submit an application to attend our Drive Thru Food Pantry. The only requirement to receive food at our Drive Thru or off site food distributions is a driver’s license (if available) and a verbal acknowledgement that your income is within the guidelines for receiving food. Typically, anyone living at or below 200% of the federal poverty limit is eligible to receive food from The Foodbank. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this threshold was lifted to 230%. To see if you meet the guidelines, click here.

 

MYTH: The Foodbank is primarily funded by tax dollars

FACT: Like most nonprofit organizations, the bulk of our funding comes from generous donations from the general public. While we receive agricultural surplus food from the USDA’s The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), this product generally accounts for under 20% of the food we distribute.

 

MYTH: Everyone who visits a food pantry is unemployed

FACT: According to Feeding America’s most recent Hunger in America study, over half of households that visited a pantry or hot meal site had one or more members who were employed in the past 12 months. You do not need to be receiving unemployment or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to receive food from The Foodbank.

 

MYTH: We are the only place for you to get food in Dayton

FACT: The Foodbank provides food for a network of 116 partner agencies in Montgomery, Greene, and Preble counties. The Foodbank’s Drive Thru and Mobile Pantries are designed to supplement the hard work of these organizations. For that reason, the food you receive through these distributions may not be “complete” groceries, but will be bonus food to complement the food you receive from your local pantry. We encourage all of our clients to find their local pantry, which may have a greater variety of food on hand, at www.thefoodbankdayton.org/needfood.

 

MYTH: You can only visit The Foodbank once a month

FACT: The only service limit at The Foodbank is once per day. The Foodbank operates a Drive Thru pantry three days a week as well as 16 different mobile pantries each month. While each Foodbank agency has its own service limit, we invite our clients to use our services as often as needed, up to once per day. For a full list of drive thru hours and mobile pantry locations, click here.

 

MYTH: Food banks and food pantries really only provide canned goods — not fresh foods such as vegetables

FACT: All hunger relief organizations aim to provide nutritious foods to sustain a healthy life. A large majority of our food comes from retail donors, which means we receive a wide variety of items such as bakery, frozen meat, seafood, and lots of fresh produce. At The Foodbank we are also lucky enough to have a 75 raised bed urban garden that allows us to grow our own fresh produce and distribute it directly to the community. 

 

MYTH: Families that receive the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — aka food stamps — don’t need more help with groceries

FACT: The average monthly SNAP benefit for a one-person household was $131 in fiscal year 2020. SNAP provides supplemental assistance, but does not typically cover the cost of a family’s entire grocery budget. Many households need additional support to make ends meet.

 

MYTH: Fraud is widespread among SNAP recipients

FACT: According to the USDA, over 99% of people who receive SNAP benefits are eligible for the program. SNAP has low rates of abuse and provides critical support to our work. For every meal distributed by a Feeding America food bank, SNAP provides 12.

 

We are always working towards breaking the stigmas of seeking food assistance and ensuring that it is a comfortable, approachable process. 

While we try to stay consistent, our service hours are subject to change, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. For up-to-date information, double-check at www.thefoodbankdayton.org/needfood or follow us @thefoodbankinc on Facebook!


Closing out a historic fiscal year at The Foodbank

Closing out a historic fiscal year at The Foodbank

Amidst the ongoing recovery from the 2019 tornado outbreak and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Foodbank distributed more food than ever before

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

Despite an unusually challenging year, The Foodbank was able to distribute 17,884,642 pounds of food in our 2020 fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.

Over one third of the food distributed by weight was fresh produce. With it, we were able to provide food to 116 partner agencies in our three-county network and serve a total of 935,404 people.

It’s hard to believe over a year has passed since the 2019 Memorial Day tornado outbreak. The storm left over $1 billion in property damage and at least 1,800 without homes. While the disaster struck a month before the beginning of the fiscal year, recovery has been slow, and the destruction is still visible in many parts of our community. Read about our tornado relief response here.

It’s even harder to believe that just one year after the storm, our community would be living through a mass shooting and a pandemic. It has been a challenging year,  but we are honored to have been able to serve our community through it.

Here are some highlights from the past year at The Foodbank:

Drive Thru fills critical gaps in COVID-19 response

A line of cars forms outside The Foodbank’s Drive Thru Food Pantry on a rainy distribution day.

Our on-site drive thru was built in 2018 as an accessible distribution site for our Senior Box Program. While we saw potential in the drive-thru to expand our distribution capabilities, we didn’t know just how critical it would be in our disaster relief efforts.

Early March was an extremely difficult time for us at The Foodbank. The spread of COVID-19 and mandatory social distancing measures forced us to rethink nearly every aspect of our operations.

We typically host Mobile Farmers Markets at 27 different sites each month, but the high attendance at these events makes social distancing difficult to enforce. Sadly, we had to suspend these distributions for nearly three months.

Additionally, we could no longer visit our 18 Senior Box distribution sites due to safety precautions at the living facilities. With all of these operations canceled, we were left with one way to get food out of the building and onto the tables of our community — our on-site Drive Thru Food Pantry.

Immediately, we saw attendance rates spike to levels we have never seen before. Before the pandemic began, our Drive Thru was averaging about 200-300 households per distribution. That number skyrocketed to 600-700 households per day, peaking at a record breaking 750 households on April 22nd.

This was an incredible year for the Drive Thru, which served a total of 37,249 households and distributed 3,467,113 pounds of food. It is an essential service that aids in our confidence that Miami Valley residents can always turn to us no matter the circumstance.

 

Mobile Farmers Markets distribute record-high number of meals despite COVID-related cancellations

Like nearly all aspects of our operations, our Mobile Farmers Market program was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We were forced to temporarily suspend our Mobile Farmers Markets March 12 to limit the spread of the virus.

After developing a plan to enforce social distancing, which included additional staffing to keep our families six feet apart, we were able to reopen on a limited basis starting in June.

After carefully evaluating each Mobile site to ensure our ability to enforce social distancing and reach all areas in our territory, we selected 11 sites to reopen first. We are continuing to evaluate the course of the pandemic as well as food insecurity projections in our area to determine our next courses of action.

While our almost three-month closure certainly affected our metrics, this has still been a very successful year for our Mobile Farmers Market program. Through this program alone, we were able to distribute a total of 1,848,453.7 pounds of food to families in our three-county service area — an increase of 73,990.5 pounds from the previous year!

We would like to thank our generous donors and volunteers for supporting our work in the past year. Last year, a total of 5,414 volunteers spent 13,600 hours with us. We couldn’t do it without your help! Follow our social media accounts @thefoodbankinc for future announcements on volunteer opportunities. While we are still not allowing volunteers on-site due to the severity of the pandemic, we hope to see you all soon.

It has been a record breaking year here at The Foodbank and we are hopeful for what the future holds. This year has challenged us in ways we never thought possible and proven our true resiliency as a team and a community. If you want to read more about our service area, hunger statistics, or our economic impact, visit our Tri-County Impact Statement on our website.


Recipe: Firecracker Chickpea “Meat” Balls

Recipe: Firecracker Chickpea “Meat” Balls

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

We received a BEANormous amount of garbanzo beans this year! To make these legumes more apPEAling, we’ve beens haring recipes with our clients to help them keep their dinner menus fresh. A Pinterest user shared this awesome recipe using garbanzo beans and we wanted to pass it along! If you try it out, let us know in the comments below.

Firecracker Chickpea “Meat” Balls

Yields about 16 meatballs, serving 4 people

“Meat” Balls

  • 1 can (14 ounces) of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or oil of your choice
  • Black pepper to taste

 

Firecracker Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce, vinegar based
  • 1/2 cup organic brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup room temperature water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

 

“Meat” Ball Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Combine chickpeas, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, soy sauce, paprika, cumin, and black pepper into food processor
  3. Pulse food processor unitl ingredients are finely chopped. Be careful to not overblend!
  4. Lightly oil a baking sheet and roll bean mixture into balls
  5. Arrange balls on the baking sheet and brush with oil
  6. Bake meatballs for about 30 minutes, turning thema. bout halfway through, until browned

 

Firecracker Sauce Instructions

  1. Whisk cornstarch and cold water together in a small bowl
  2. Stir other ingredients together in saucepan
  3. Set the pan over medium head
  4. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes
  5. Stir in the cornstarch mixture while simmering until the mixture thickens up
  6. Serve over top meatballs and top with chives

A Statement from The Foodbank Team

A Statement from The Foodbank Team

 

When we moved to our current location in 2013, we intentionally chose a building located in zip code 45417 — a predominantly black neighborhood in Dayton with some of the highest poverty rates in the area — because we believe we should work alongside the people we serve. Our diversity statement is “The Foodbank values all people without judgement.”

In keeping with that statement, we deliberately hire and cultivate a diverse staff that includes people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, and people from various other backgrounds. We actively recruit team members who have previously been incarcerated. About one third of our current Foodbank team joined this hunger relief work after exiting the criminal justice system.

To learn more about the work we do, read our impact statement here.


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


Foodbanking in the time of COVID-19

Foodbanking in the time of COVID-19

Pandemics disproportionately affect the people in our lines. Here’s what we’re doing to help.

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

Last week, concerns about COVID-19, a form of coronavirus, reached a fever pitch as the Ohio Department of Health announced the state’s first three positive cases. Since then, efforts to contain the pandemic led to school closings, orders to limit public gatherings, and even the suspension of voting in the state of Ohio. 

For weeks, the health and well-being of our clients, staff, and volunteers has been at the forefront of our minds as we monitor the spread of this pandemic. We have had to make very difficult choices to suspend or modify many of our offsite services, but we are making every possible effort to make sure our clients have access to the food they need.

In these trying times, we would like to commend the leadership of Governor Mike DeWine, who has made strong moves to limit the spread of the virus. Many early actions, including the closures of schools, bars, and restaurants, have provided a model for other states trying to respond to the epidemic. We are glad to see our leaders taking this virus seriously.

Background on COVID-19

COVID-19 is a form of coronavirus, a family of viruses that are zoonotic, or transmitted between animals and people. Coronaviruses have been responsible for deadly outbreaks in the past, including MERS and SARS, but COVID-19 is a new strand thought to have originated from bats. Many initial infections were traced to a large market in Wuhan, China.

Seniors and people with pre-existing conditions are at a heightened risk of becoming seriously ill as a result of this disease, but people of any age can become sick with or transmit the virus. According to the CDC, early data suggests that seniors are twice as likely to have a serious illness because of the virus.

This reality became chillingly clear when COVID-19 swept through a nursing home in a Seattle suburb, causing the deaths of 18 residents. Older adults are at an increased risk due to weakened immune systems and the increased likelihood of pre-existing conditions. The National Council on Aging stated that “age increases the risk that the respiratory system or lungs will shut down when an older person has COVID-19 disease.”

Families with small children can take comfort in the fact that, unlike influenza, COVID-19 does not seem to cause a serious threat to children. In fact, children and young adults are more likely to carry the disease with no symptoms at all. However, these populations should still take part in healthy practices as they could transmit it to someone else who may not have a strong immune system.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to that of the flu virus and the common cold. Both viruses are potentially dangerous to high-risk populations, and individuals who experience difficulty breathing should seek emergency treatment regardless of known COVID-19 exposure.

What does this mean for people in our lines?

One risk factor for the disease may not be immediately apparent: Analysis of past disease outbreaks, such as influenza, reveals that pandemics often disproportionately affect people who are living in poverty. 

One study of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak found that, in Oaklahoma, 26 percent of white individuals who contracted the virus needed hospitalization, compared to 55 percent of black patients and 37 percent of indigenous patients. 

In many ways, this is common sense: People with low incomes are more likely to work part-time jobs that do not offer benefits such as paid sick leave and healthcare. People living in poverty and people of color are also more likely to live in areas with high population density, which increases the likelihood that they will be infected.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than one third of private-sector employees in the lowest wage category have access to paid sick leave

Luckily, employees whose employment is affected by the outbreak may be eligible for additional unemployment relief. This will be especially important for employees of the restaurants, gyms, bars, and other businesses that have been ordered to close. 

Workers who are required to self-isolate will be eligible for unemployment benefits even if they do not test positive for the virus. Many restrictions on unemployment benefits, including the usual waiting period for benefits to kick in, have also been waived.

Workers who need to apply for unemployment benefits can file online at unemployment.ohio.gov

This pandemic is a stark reminder that almost half of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, which means a loss of income due to quarantines or business closures can be catastrophic. It also decreases these households’ ability to stockpile food, water, and other necessities.

School closures are also incredibly disruptive to families’ day to day life, as workers who cannot afford childcare may be forced to stay home. Closing schools can also impact children’s cognitive development at an extremely crucial stage in life.

Encouragingly, many school districts have already begun to offer carryout school meals. Governor Mike DeWine confirmed on March 13 that the United States Department of Agriculture approved Ohio’s waiver to allow carryout meals in school.

So, what are we doing about all of this?

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, it may be difficult trying to follow the constant news updates and safety precautions. At The Foodbank, people are the most important resource, so it is our duty to ensure that we are serving our vulnerable populations in the safest way possible. 

Unfortunately, the spread of COVID-19 has a tremendous impact both on the population we serve and our own operations.

Due to Governor Mike DeWine’s orders of limiting public gatherings to less than 100 people, we had to make the difficult decision to cancel our mobile food pantries for the time being. Clients are actively being guided towards our weekly drive thru pantries.

To meet any additional needs due to the cancellation of our mobiles, we have expanded our drive thru operations to running three times a week. Additionally, we moved to serving families once a month in effort to keep up with high demand. 

Since the outbreak of the virus, our drive thru went from serving an average of 350 families per day to over 400 per day. As news changes by the day, we are always looking for ways to update our services with the community’s safety in mind.

We have made the decision to target low-income seniors with this box program because they are the population at highest risk for death or serious illness as a result of this virus. We also know that many of our seniors are homebound or on a fixed income, which makes it more difficult for them to visit the supermarket or stockpile emergency supplies. 

Because we have had to suspend offsite distributions of our CSFP boxes, we have added additional drive thru distributions to serve those clients directly at our warehouse. Seniors enrolled in the program can visit our drive thru March 24 or March 26 between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm to pick up both their senior food boxes and their additional COVID-19 emergency boxes.

If you are looking for a way to help out, The Foodbank is still actively seeking volunteers. We currently have an increased need due to high demand in the drive thru and the volume of emergency boxes we are trying to package.

If you want to volunteer at The Foodbank, please make an appointment prior by calling (937) 461-0265 x31. We are enacting several safety measures to protect our volunteers, staff, and clients, including:

  • Limiting walk-in traffic to The Foodbank by locking our doors
  • Taking the temperature of all volunteers and staff who enter our building
  • Requiring all volunteers to wash their hands prior to the start of their shift
  • Asking volunteers and staff not to bring outside food into the building
  • Asking any volunteers over the age of 60 to stay home

Thank you donors!

It is always heartening to see our community come together at difficult times such as that. We would like to extend our thanks to the people who have volunteered or donated in the past several weeks. In times like this, every little bit counts.

We would especially like to thank Caresource, who committed $128,000 in funding to provide additional food boxes to our at-risk seniors currently enrolled in our CSFP program. This funding will be used to prepare 1,200 boxes, each of which will contain enough food to last 14 days. We hope these boxes, which we are currently building and distribute, will help this high-risk population practice social distancing in the coming weeks.

To follow along with The Foodbank’s response efforts, follow us on our social media channels @thefoodbankinc and our website for further updates. 


Encouraging Someone to Help Others

Encouraging Someone to Help Others

An Interview with Megan Broom

Written By: Aniqa Ahmed, Advocacy Intern of The Foodbank, Inc.

Megan Broom began volunteering at The Foodbank, Inc. in 2018 as part of a school project that helped fulfill a 25 hour volunteer credit requirement.  One year and over 100 hours later, Megan is still giving her time by helping out in the warehouse and for off-site events. What stood out to Megan there was a real feeling of “good” surrounding the culture of the organization. When she says that, she not only means the act of community service, but also that the staff and volunteers are welcoming, encouraging, and knowledgeable, noting, “No organization is perfect, but it’s hard to find flaws in their operation.”

Growing up in the middle-class suburb of Kettering, Megan was fortunate enough to have an amazing support system where food insecurity had never been an issue. However, she was encouraged to help someone who needed a meal. In her own words, Megan believes, “Eating together builds trust. Cooking together creates bonds. I’m happy to have spent time with an organization which helps to provide the means to such outcomes.”

Megan is currently working for Patchwork Gardens, a local chemical-free farm in Trotwood. She has always been interested in learning how to grow her own food and what it takes to do so on a larger scale. When Megan first started volunteering with The Foodbank, Inc., she was informed that Patchwork Gardens donates excess produce to The Foodbank, Inc. She then started volunteering on the farm and was hired on for the 2019 growing season.  She states, “The connection between the two organizations means a great deal to me,” thus influencing her decision to take the position at Patchwork Gardens.

Megan exclaims, “I don’t believe people can be expected to perform if they are hungry – children can’t learn; adults can’t work. So, for me, The Foodbank, Inc. is an example of the community helping itself to thrive.”

September is Hunger Action Month, Feeding America’s nationwide network of food banks’ awareness campaign designed to mobilize the public to take action on the issue of hunger. Hunger is a reality for 1 in 6 of our Miami Valley neighbors. Together, we can end hunger one helping at a time. Every action counts, so visit us on social media @thefoodbankinc to learn how you can get started.