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.


What to expect: The Foodbank pilots new neighbor intake system

What to expect: The Foodbank pilots new neighbor intake system

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

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager

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

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

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

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

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

The new platform will require the following information from clients:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wholesale Food Purchases Help Provide Better Choices for Our Neighbors

Wholesale Food Purchases Help Provide Better Choices for Our Neighbors

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

By Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How to host a holiday food drive

How to host a holiday food drive

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

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

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

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

What items can I donate?

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

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

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

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

Consider a virtual food drive!

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

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

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

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

Get started today!

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

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

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

Consider these ideas to make your food drive more impactful:

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

 


Senior Food Boxes help increase food security among older adults

Senior Food Boxes help increase food security among older adults

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP, provides boxes of nutritious food to low-income seniors

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

Eating a healthy, well balanced diet is something we all strive to do, especially as we get older and make adjustments to our needs. With aging comes dietary changes, and purchasing diet-specific foods can create a financial burden on seniors already living within a fixed income.

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), also known as the Senior Food Box Program, is a United States Department of Agriculture program designed to supplement the health of low-income older adults.

CSFP provides a monthly box of a variety of food, including canned fruits and vegetables, shelf stable milk, canned protein, peanut butter, and cheese. Seniors enrolled in this program receive one box per month free of charge. The USDA selects and purchases the food used in this program, which The Foodbank administers with the oversight of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

Nationwide, the CSFP program serves about 619,000 older adults annually. According to Feeding America, each box costs the USDA $27 and results in a product with an average retail value of $50. The nutritious food available in the box helps prevent health consequences of food insecurity, including hospital stays and nursing home placements.

One 2019 study of CSFP clients in Rhode Island found that 84.9% of those surveyed were found to be food insecure prior to enrolling in the program. After enrolling, overall rates of food insecurity dropped to 64.1%.

The CSFP program is especially important to protect the health of older adults. According to the Food Research Action Center, older adults who experience food insecurity are 19% more likely to have high blood pressure, 57% more likely to have congestive heart failure, 65% more likely to be diabetic, and 66% more likely to have experienced a heart attack.

The Foodbank currently distributes CSFP boxes at 21 different locations across Montgomery and Greene counties. These include apartment complexes, senior living communities, and the drive thru at our warehouse. These distribution sites are selected with accessibility in mind. Placing food directly into cars or distributing directly in living communities makes transporting food much easier.

Last year, The Foodbank distributed over 2.3 million pounds of CSFP food. Over 1,000 seniors were enrolled in the program.

Because CSFP is administered through the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, it is the only Foodbank program that has an application process. To enroll in the program, you must be 60 years of age or older and living at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. To see if you qualify, check your income against the chart below:

2021 CSFP Income Guidelines

Household Size Annual Income Monthly Income Weekly Income
1 $16,744 $1,396 $322
2 $22,646  $1,888  $436
3 $28,548  $2,379 $549
4 $34,450  $2,871 $663
5 $40,352 $3,363 $776
6 $46,254 $3,855  $890 
7 $52,156 $4,347 $1,003
8 $58,058  $4,839  $1,117
For each additional member, add… 5,902 $492 $114

You may fill out an application at our office or have one mailed to you by calling Emily Riley at 937-461-0265 x54.

 


Remembering Matthew Roll

Remembering Matthew Roll

Celebrating the life of our beloved friend and team member

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

 

The Foodbank team was heartbroken to learn that one of our own, Matthew Roll, passed away unexpectedly last Tuesday October 12, 2021. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.

Matt was, by all assessments, an absolutely indispensable member of our Foodbank Family during his six years with us. There was not a part of our organization Matt did not touch. He started his journey as a Warehouse team member, and at the time of his passing he was cross training to be our Chief Operating Officer and in charge of our Business Office. His influence on every aspect of our organization will survive for years to come.

Due in part to his own prior involvement with the criminal justice system, Matt was a phenomenal advocate for employees who had previously been incarcerated. He was one of our very first re-entry hires. In many ways, Matt was a great example that a criminal record does not need to define the rest of your life. Matt’s enormous heart, never-ending patience, and calm energy will be missed by all who came into contact with him.

While The Foodbank will never be quite the same without him, we will honor his legacy by continuing to hire and support people who have previously been incarcerated. We are so grateful for the time we had with him.

Matt had a lasting impact on each team member he met during his time with us. Here’s what they had to say:

“Matt’s ‘creative problem-solving techniques’ to conquer any task would put a smile on your face in admiration. Matt’s kindness, unending patience, intelligence, and sense of humor paved a lighted path directly to your heart.” –Rachel Hilderbrand

“Matthew was always the first person I could count on for a laugh, I will forever miss his impressions of past memories at The Foodbank and seeing a smile light up his face. He taught us all to never take things too seriously and to always take the last donut from the box… and the Reese cup from someone else’s desk.” –Lee Lauren Truesdale

“No matter what question I asked him, he never made me feel stupid for asking.” -Jessica Plummer

“Tell Matt I will always be grateful to him for teaching me everything I know about food banking. For always leading by example – a true leader. Never afraid to be on the frontlines and get his hands dirty. Always a willing hand I could call on with no judgment. A welcoming smile and calming spirit I looked forward to working with and being around. You will be missed, and always in our hearts.” –Charles Martin

“Matt was an advocate for everyone. His leadership was extraordinary because it was gentle, and we are all better for it.”  –Lauren Tappel

“Even though you led with your conservative, calm, collective, cool blue energy, I had the pleasure of seeing the funny, personable side of you.  Watching you zoom around doing whatever you could do. We laughed a lot and I really enjoyed hearing it. That big bright smile you loved to hide, I’m going to miss it. I loved some of the hilarious stories you told me, and your warm comforting demeanor you had for all of us to see. You left such an impact on our hearts, rebuilding without you we don’t even know where to start. We’re gonna miss you Matt, and from time to time I’ll hide you a snack.” –Quita Williams

“Matt was a bright light with a contagious laugh that brought a smile to everyone around him. I am thankful for the time I got to know him.” –Katie Heinkel

“Matt’s genuine personality and laugh will truly be missed. He was always easy to talk with and would go over and beyond to help you. No matter how busy he was, he always made time for you even if it was just to tell you he hadn’t forgot about you and would follow up. Fly high Matt, I will always remember you by your beautiful smile.” –Jamie Robinson

 “Matt is the unselfish leader we all deserve. His leadership style maximized my production level because he valued effort over mistakes. Meaning he allowed me and others to fail without fear of persecution. And when you did well, he made sure everyone knew ‘You did it.’ Thank you, Matt.” –Daquarious Branch

“When I think of Matt, I think of his kind soul, his great smile and his infectious laugh. He never made me feel stupid for asking silly questions, and there were lots of those! I will miss the sound of his fast feet moving around the office…he must have walked 50,000 steps in a day! My life is better for having known Matt.” –Molly Lunne

“Matthew and I were hired at the Foodbank just weeks apart from each other. He was my first work friend and quickly became a good friend as well. He did everything to help the people around him. His passion and drive shined so bright. His smile lightened a room. And his ability to figure things out was unparalleled. Matthew will be missed dearly.” –Jordan Komon

“You were always fun to be around, you loved to laugh and tell jokes. I bet you didn’t know it, but you had a very big impact on the people at The Foodbank, and anyone you met along the way. You always made the comment on how many people come and go from The Foodbank, but you went way too soon my friend. Watch over your family and ours, I hope you rest easy!” –Nick Green

“Matt was always on your team — if he was in the room you knew you had somebody to count on. He was the first person you ran to in hot water, and the first suspect when all of the candy was gone from your snack drawer. I can only hope he knew we were all on his team too. The world needs more Matts.” –Caitlyn McIntosh

“I will miss Matt’s smile, his infamous sweet tooth, and his seemingly bottomless well of patience for all of us at The Foodbank. I will never forget the day he said that what motivated him was that he never wanted to let anyone down. I just hope, somehow, that he knows he never did. Not even once.” –Emily Gallion

“Among Matthew’s finest and most admirable qualities was his humbleness — always deflecting attention away from himself — while serving others in the most exemplary fashion.  He rarely spoke of himself.  He really didn’t need to; his actions spoke volumes.  Still, I wish he would have shared more of himself because I think we all would have benefited.” –Katie Ly

“I can’t even begin to count how many times I heard ‘Hey Matt’ on a daily basis. Matt was the lifeline for all of us here at The Foodbank. No matter what you asked him about he always knew the answer, and more often than not he actually knew what you were going to ask about before you said it! I will miss his bright spirit so much. Thank you, Matt, for always having our backs… you will be so incredibly missed by everyone here.” –Lauren Mathile


Volunteering at The Foodbank: 101

Volunteering at The Foodbank: 101

Everything you need to know before a volunteer shift

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

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

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

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

Step one: Logging in and Signing Up

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

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

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

Step two: Picking Your Event

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Coming Prepared for Your Shift

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

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

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

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

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


Where our food goes

Where our food goes

We distribute food through agencies and programs of all shapes and sizes

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

Last fiscal year we distributed close to 18 million pounds of food. The last time we talked to you, we gave you the rundown of where we get our food from – but where in the world does 18 million pounds of food go? 

Partner Agencies

The heart of The Foodbank’s hunger relief programming is the acquisition and distribution of food to our 116 partner agencies. This is the critical difference between a food bank and a food pantry: While a pantry distributes food to individuals, a food bank’s central mission is to distribute food to other organizations. Without the hard work of our agencies, we could not reach the 935,404 individuals we served last fiscal year.

Partner agencies fall into five categories: pantries, meal sites, congregate programs, emergency shelters, and Kids Cafe meal sites.

Food pantries: Also known as grocery programs, food pantries make up the majority of our partner agencies. A pantry is any program that distributes groceries for clients to prepare at home. Last year, we provided food for 96 such organizations. Our pantries vary widely in size and type, from small church pantries to larger nonprofits that serve thousands each month.

Hot meal sites, congregate programs, and emergency shelters: Sometimes referred to as soup kitchens, hot meal sites include any organization that provides free meals to anyone who needs it. Some emergency shelters, which include domestic violence shelters and temporary housing for people in crisis, also receive food from us. Last fiscal year, we served 22 hot meal sites and shelters.

Kids Cafe meal sites: The Foodbank operates a Kids Cafe program that is administered by a variety of community partners, such as after school programs. The Kids Cafe program serves meals to children in the community. Kids Cafe is a registered trademark of Feeding America.

Drive Thru

The Foodbank operates a Drive Thru Food Pantry to meet the additional needs of our local community. The Drive Thru was originally conceptualized as a way to distribute senior boxes. It has since grown into a service for the greater community.

Visitors to our Drive Thru are entered into our client management system, PantryTrak. Our data, which includes attendance at our direct service programs and partner agencies, is reported on a monthly basis to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. Fluctuations in attendance at our programs can act as a barometer to identify changes in regional food insecurity.

To receive food from the Drive Thru, you must bring a drivers license and have an income at or below 200% (or 230% during the COVID-19 pandemic) of the federal poverty limit.

Food distributed at our Drive Thru is intended to supplement any food received at our partner agencies and through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As such, clients may not receive a complete set of groceries, but will receive a variety of food such as fresh produce, frozen meat, and bakery items.

As of December 2020, The Drive Thru is open Monday thru Wednesday from 1pm to 3pm. Hours are subject to change; check this page for more up to date information.

The Foodbank Mobile Farmers Markets

Every month, The Foodbank’s Mobile Farmers Markets deliver fresh food and produce to 15 locations at high risk for food insecurity. These locations are in areas of high poverty that do not have access to a local food pantry. Many of our clients served by the Mobile Farmer’s Markets are seniors who are homebound.

Our Mobile program also operates on a larger scale when we host Mass Distributions throughout the year. Typically we host three a year: one in Montgomery county, one in Greene county, and one in Preble county. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and an increased need for food across the board, we hosted seven mass distributions this year. Stay tuned to our social media pages for our 2021 Mass Distribution schedule. 

Last year, we distributed 1.8 million pounds of food through our Mobile Farmers Market programs.

To view our mobile schedule, visit http://thefoodbankdayton.org/agencies/needfood/.

Senior Boxes

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, better known as the Senior Box Program, is a federally funded program that provides seniors aged 60 and over a monthly box of food items catered to their dietary needs.

The Foodbank distributes just over 1,000 of these boxes each month at 16 different locations, including our on site drive thru.

For a deep dive on senior hunger, check out our blog post. Senior box qualifications and the application can be found here or by calling 937-461-0265 ext. 17.

Good to Go Backpacks

These meal packs are given to food insecure children who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches during the week, but are at risk of going hungry on weekends.

Students who are enrolled in this program receive a pack of healthy, kid friendly food that is discreetly placed in their backpacks every Friday. School personnel select students to participate based on signs of hunger, such as rushing lunch lines, hoarding food, and talking about not having food at home. 

Each backpack also contains a “love note” with an uplifting personal message and information regarding our emergency food line. This phone line is operated 24 hrs a day for families in need of immediate assistance. Our staff member will refer the caller to a partner agency or Foodbank program near them.

Last year, we had 1,520 students in 30 schools who participated in the program.

Rx Boxes

The Foodbank, in partnership with Dayton Children’s Hospital, created a Food Script Program that allows physicians and staff to write food prescriptions for hospital patient families who have been identified as food insecure. 

The food insecurity screenings are conducted by hospital community health workers, social workers, nurses, and staff. The primary target audience for this project is families with children who may be food insecure but are not already receiving food assistance.

Last year, these Rx Boxes were distributed to 522 households.

If you or someone you know is in need of food assistance, check out our overview of resources here. We also frequently post resources and up-to-date food distribution information on our Facebook page.


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.