Speaker 1 00:00:17 Hi, everyone. Welcome back to just a bite for today's episode. Jewelry. Sat down with some of our food bank directors from across the state to talk about the situation they're all facing with increased need, failing infrastructure, and an unsustainable food purchasing situation. Listen to learn more.
Speaker 2 00:00:47 So my name's Joy Nav. Um, I work with the Ohio Association of Food Banks. We represent Ohio's 12 Feeding America food banks, um, that serve all 88 counties across Ohio. And our network. These folks that you see here and their teams, um, provide food and support to about 3,700 different food pantries, soup, kitchens, shelters, supplemental feeding programs. There's just an enormous, uh, breath and scope to what we all do, and I'm pleased to work with these folks every day. And at our, uh, shop, we often say that if you know one food bank, you know, one food bank. So while they have a lot in common, they do work to meet the specific needs of the communities they serve in, in partnership with those agencies, that they support the stakeholders available in their communities and the resources that they have access to. So across our network, our efforts to quickly adapt, respond, and expand what we do to stand in the gap for Ohio families, um, I think was really well publicized, right, during the early stages of the pandemic.
Speaker 2 00:01:57 But for many months now, you know, a lot of the world has tried to move on from the pandemic, and our food banks are still grappling with a compounding list of challenges. Um, you know, we have historically high prices for basics like food and utilities. Not only for us to attain, but also for all of our neighbors to attain. We have accelerating impacts of climate change, right? Um, we have, you know, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which I'm sure you've heard has impacted global as well as local food supplies. Um, so with all of that said, and, and a lot more onset, we just really wanted you to be able to hear from our food banks. They represent diverse geographies, but you know, they had have a shared crisis that they're all facing right now. So I'll just start by, you know, letting each of them share really just what it's like right now for them, finding food, what declines they've seen in, in sources of food, how they've had to find food differently, how concerned they are about their inventory, and, and also what demand looks like for their help right now.
Speaker 3 00:03:01 Um, I'm Julie Chase Moorefield. I'm the president and CEO at the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio. Um, I also serve as the board chair, uh, for the association. One of the things that, you know, has been a huge challenge for us, um, in North central Ohio. So we're that area between Toledo, Toledo in Cleveland, um, both urban and rural, um, is what we, is what we serve. We don't have a lot of food donors in our area. Um, so as food donations have dropped off nationally, um, and our retail stores, we've been forced to actually purchase a lot more food. Uh, so before the pandemic, um, we would purchase maybe $600,000 worth of food. So not a lot. Um, it was maybe six to 10% of our total inventory that we would serve. Uh, this year we're gonna, we're gonna purchase almost 2 million worth of food.
Speaker 3 00:03:46 And even then, um, even with purchasing so much more food this year, we're still down 20% from last year. Um, yet we're serving the same number of people. Um, and the amount of food that we can get, supply chain issues, the challenges, um, you know, both nationally and globally in terms of food supply. Um, you know, purchasing food is extremely difficult as well. Um, so we see, you know, regularly, 4, 6, 8 week timelines, um, as far as, you know, when we can even bring product in. Um, so that's not, you know, in years past that was always the fallback that, well, we could always purchase food if, if we were really desperate, we could always purchase food. And that's not necessarily the case now. And, and some things are just really very difficult to find. And I think that's evident even when you go into the grocery store that you see, um, so many, um, you know, holes on the shelves and things that just aren't available in the supply that they were, that they were before.
Speaker 3 00:04:36 Um, but we still see tremendous need. Um, one of the things that we've been doing, um, at our food bank is actually collecting, uh, paper plates, um, from people who are, uh, we're serving. So we do mobile poop pantry distributions, so people are still in the cars, um, and coming into the distributions. Um, and, you know, we've been hearing some of the stories, and I just wanna share one story with you, and then, um, we'll let my fellow food bankers share. Um, but the, the plate reads, thanks for all the help. I couldn't have made it because of the rising cost of my medication, utilities, and gas for the car. I really need this extra help. It's deeply appreciated. And now I'll turn it over to Tyra.
Speaker 4 00:05:12 My name's Tyra Jackson. I'm the executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, um, Clark Champaign in Logan County. We are the smallest food bank in this community. Um, part of our network. Um, we serve about 50,000 people, um, unduplicated. Um, while we're Park County is not deemed rural, the majority of it is. Um, and then Champagne and Logan County are completely, um, rural areas. And I think all of us, um, during this time, during the pandemic, um, more awareness of what food banks do, um, has been brought to the attention of our community. And with that, we've seen more people coming through. And with that new people, and these new people have sort of gotten this idea of what we're able to do because during the pandemic, we were receiving assistance nationally, um, federal funds and federal food stuff from the state, um, also locally.
Speaker 4 00:06:12 And now all of that's gone, But people are still expecting to receive that same quantity and the same amount of those items. And we don't have it. Um, we have had it multiple times. My staff have come up to me and they're saying, we're running low on protein, and we all know when we go to the grocery stores ourselves, how much it costs us to actually buy beef, to buy pork, to buy chicken. Those main ticket items are things that people want and that they need, and they're expecting to receive from us now. And unfortunately, we don't have it, and it's getting hard for them, and it's also hard for us to procure those things. Um, we are a very low resource area, so we don't have large corporations. Um, we, our purchase budget prior to this was under a hundred thousand dollars a year. We relied solely, basically on donations we were receiving and also what we received from the state and the federal government, um, to provide food. So it's been incredibly hard for us to keep up with the need of what our neighbors are requesting and what they're seeking from us. Um, and it's getting harder and harder each day to, um, meet their need. And so we're just trying to work collaboratively to figure out how we're going to be able to do that.
Speaker 5 00:07:36 Um, I'm Kelly Hadas with the Southeast Ohio Food Bank. Um, we have a rural service area in southeast Ohio, as our name suggests. We serve about 10 counties in Appalachian, Ohio. That includes some of the poorest counties in the state in our region. We have a really significant philanthropy gap. Uh, our region has 90% fewer charitable assets per capita than in non Appalachian counties in the state. Um, and on the retail rescue side, we just don't have the food manufacturers or frankly, the density of grocery stores that other regions have. So our ability to access either fundraise our way, um, out of food shortages or challenging situations or picking up on the donation side is just not really an option for us. Uh, Kroger is one of our significant donors in our, our, on our 10 county area. Um, we have 10 Kroger stores, or about one every 460 square miles.
Speaker 5 00:08:30 So, and, and just Columbus, Uh, there are 18, just as an example, like of the density of stores and the availability of product there. Um, as an under-resourced food bank, we really rely heavily on our state and federal commodities. Um, prior to this year is by far the bulk of the food that we access and distribute to people in need in the region. Um, the challenges on the teeth outside in particular have really, um, been challenging for our food bank. Uh, we were really low on inventory over the summer. Um, we applied for some grand funding to get one time funding to purchase food. It's about half a million dollars. That's so much more than we've ever spent on food in any given year. And it, but it's not a sustainable solution. Um, so those, the challenges on the T upside have just really impacted our ability to meet the need in our region, which is great and has been rising. Um, and, um, we just need additional government support to be able to do this work. Turn it over to Kurt, I think.
Speaker 6 00:09:34 Thanks Kelly. Uh, even before the pandemic, uh, some of the families were relying on us. So you, you look at different statistics, you know, as one in seven, one in six, one in eight. Uh, but suffice to say, there were over 48 million Americans that were dealing with food insecurity that were being supported by the, uh, feeding American network of food banks. Uh, I'm privileged and honored to serve on the National Council for Feeding America, in addition to three different state association, uh, boards, uh, that are serving the states of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. Free Store Food Bank serves a 20 county service error in, in that territory. So we have, we go from Wilmington, Ohio down to Owen County, Kentucky, from Aurora, Indiana over to Portsmouth, Ohio. So we've got rural, suburban and urban, uh, areas that we service. Um, and recently we, you know, we were sort of the point food bank that was supporting, uh, the disaster that happened in eastern Kentucky relative to the flooding that occurred.
Speaker 6 00:10:40 And just, you know, several months prior to that, we had the tornadoes ripped through, um, the western part of Kentucky. And we supported those efforts as well. But as you can imagine, with the diminished resources that we had available to us, um, there really wasn't a whole lot to, to distribute. So, I mean, these food banks that these, these leaders here that you're, that you're seeing today, uh, rally behind this effort, because even though we didn't have much, we gave what we could in order to help those flood victims and those tornado relief victims. But, um, you know, the problem with, with natural disasters or national disasters as I'm calling hunger, is that, you know, you typically see an end to that natural disaster and recovery period. Uh, we've gone through the past two and a half years of a pandemic that has really impacted, uh, the economic mobility of the families that we serve.
Speaker 6 00:11:40 Uh, you've heard many of the, of my colleagues talk about the new FA faces of hunger. Well, these aren't new faces of hunger. These are the folks that have been living paycheck to paycheck and dealing with, uh, just not enough money to make ends meet, you know, through the end of the month. You know, people talk about SNAP benefits and saying, Well, that's going to cure the issue. It doesn't. Now, SNAP is, is by far one of our biggest tools in our arsenal are, are, and in this fight against hunger. But it's a, it's a challenge to get people to get on Snap and stay on Snap and then have that administer differently throughout the various states that we all occupy and, and operate in serving on the National Council for repeating America. Uh, you know, the stories you're hearing here today are being replicated and repeated across this, this entire country.
Speaker 6 00:12:29 It's been, uh, a real challenge when you see folks that you know, have always been able to rely on their own income, have now come to our food pantries. 75% of all the families that come to the free star Food banks, large scale food distributions have never set foot in one of our pantries. You know, we went from one in seven of our neighbors to about one in five of our neighbors, uh, during the pandemic. And that has not let up. 270,000 of our neighbors, 90,000 of which are kids are eligible to receive benefits and, uh, rely on the free store food bank to support them.
Speaker 6 00:13:09 The challenges, you, you know, some of it's logistics, you know, the supply chain we talk about, uh, that's been disrupted by the natural disasters and, uh, the economy, economic downturn. Um, but these are families that have really expended all their resources to try to get through the pandemic because of business closures, furloughs, and layoffs. And while that's a, that's a, a, a disaster in and of itself. Now, you couple that with the increased prices that Kelly alluded to and Tyra alluded to, uh, you know, these families can't make ends meet. And, uh, you know, I think it's a, it's a real challenge and that's why we're asking the governor to support us in our efforts, uh, to get funding for, uh, through the American Rescue Plan to purchase food. And we know that's a one time purchase, but we know that's gonna help leverage the resources that all of us have available to us through the philanthropic needs, but then also allow us to build the capacity of the network that we serve. And as Joy mentioned earlier, 3,700, you know, neighborhood PAs rely on our free store and the rest of our sister food banks to get the work done. So now I'd like to turn it over to Terry, who give you an update on, you know, where he's at and, and his neighbor.
Speaker 7 00:14:27 Um, so I'm with Shared Harvest Food Bank. Uh, we are the food bank that serves the area between the Cincinnati and Dayton area, but we do hold the federal U S D A emergency food assistance program, uh, contract, not for just our food bank, but for others as well. And so we have 31 of the 88 counties here in Ohio. Um, so just between January 1st of this year and yesterday, we have had 45,147 cases of product canceled. This is product that we ordered a year ago. And so we are expecting all of that to come this year. And when we source product, we look at the variety of options that we can offer our food pantries that provide that to people. And so when that product doesn't come, then there are substantial gaps and what we can provide to people. And so it's covered vegetables, fruit, pasta, fish, cereal, all these things that we are expecting we don't have.
Speaker 7 00:15:38 And so we end up with shelving full of rice or lima beans. You know, we don't have the plethora of options to provide to these families, and we try so diligently to do that. And you've heard from Kelly and Tyro who are two food banks within those five that I mentioned, um, about half of the food for us, smaller food banks comes from the U S D A. And in some cases, like in Kelly's area, it's upwards of 80%. And so when we don't have that food, our smaller communities don't have, um, options to offer, um, their clients. We are absolutely desperate and need help right now, whatever that looks like.
Speaker 8 00:16:24 I'm Kristin with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Um, I know that a lot of us have shared similar stories, and you've heard us talk about inflation, right? And its effect on food banks in terms of food prices, but also on the clients that we serve. And I just wanted to offer a couple of kind of real life examples, uh, that we're seeing up here in Cleveland. So, you know, um, I asked, uh, the folks on our team who do food buying for us, um, and bring product in for all from all different types of sources for just some recent, um, recent pricing. And so, you know, here are two things that really stood out to me. So, um, we looked at the cost of peanut butter bef before, um, covid and now, right? So let's see here. So peanut butter, um, is up 35%, um, from the start of the pandemic.
Speaker 8 00:17:17 We're nearing the holidays. Turkey prices are through the roof. So pre pandemic, we paid 93 cents a pound, uh, for turkeys in 2022. We've already ordered our turkeys, and you'd order them early. We're paying a dollar 54 pound. And so when you're talking about buying these things, whether they're turkeys or peanut butter or by the truckload, um, it becomes very, very difficult to forge. Um, and, and, you know, our clients are buying in a smaller scale, but they also have smaller budgets. So, um, not too long ago I was out at one of our food pantries and, uh, volunteering and, uh, helping, uh, elderly client shop. Um, it was a choice pantry, so she was able to choose, um, what she wanted, uh, to select and take home. Um, her name was Joyce. Uh, she told me that she, this was kind of a first time experience for her.
Speaker 8 00:18:12 She was a new, um, client at this food pantry. Um, and, uh, as we kind of walked through the pantry together, we rounded a corner and she saw that we had fresh eggs, and she got very, very excited about fresh eggs. Um, and she said, I haven't had eggs since November. Um, because the price has gone up so much that when I put eggs in my cart at the supermarket, I have to put something else back, right? So, you know, the fact is we've got seniors and as Kurt mentioned, folks who are working really hard at lower wage jobs whose budget simply can't afford, you know, the additional 300 plus dollars a month, um, that Ohio ones are paying on food and fuel and rent and other costs. Uh, they don't have the ability, right, they, um, to pay for those additional costs. And they're turning to us, and we're seeing it in large numbers.
Speaker 8 00:19:03 I mean, when we look at our, the number of clients we're serving, we set all time high records in May, June, and July, um, in terms of clients served through our food bank and our partner agencies. You know, the numbers had started to come down after Covid, people were going back to work, but, you know, as food prices went up, the numbers started to go back up. And so, um, we really need, we need this to continue to be a wonderful private partnership. Um, and for lots of reasons, we're hoping the state will step up, Mike.
Speaker 9 00:19:36 Thanks, Kristen. Um, as Kristen mentioned, hunger was, was front of, you know, front of screen for so many across the country during the pandemic. And while, uh, while the pandemic recedes, the needs of, of our, uh, residents and our neighbors, um, is, is greater than ever. So, I'm Mike Horan with Mid Ohio Food Collective. We are the largest food bank in Ohio, serving 20 of count of Ohio's 88 counties in central and eastern Ohio, Columbus and cont contiguous counties, and then all the way out east to the West Virginia border. So we serve Earl suburban, rural, and Appalachian communities. And what we're seeing is simply unprecedented need across our entire footprint. Uh, so Kristen talked about this a little bit. We, we really invest and, uh, put heavily into our data. And what that data allows us to show is that we are seeing, um, people coming, asking for help, needing assistance, put food on their table in greater numbers than we've ever seen, uh, far outpacing anything we saw even during the peak of the pandemic.
Speaker 9 00:20:36 Uh, and that's been the case, um, every week, every month since about February of this year. Um, and it, it, we are just an unprecedented territory on the demand side of things. Um, one, uh, number that really jumps out to me, um, so far this year, just since January across our 20 county footprint, we have had over 133,000 Ohios who came to us for help for the very first time. Uh, that number is so big, it's kind of hard to conceive of. The only way I can really get there is you think about, you know, one mom with a couple kids who's never, you know, who, who's working, who's never needed help to put food on the table. Uh, and then at the end of the month, uh, you know, the, the paycheck just doesn't go far enough. And then, uh, and then that's where, that's where our system steps in.
Speaker 9 00:21:21 And that exact scenario is happening tens of thousands of times for the very first time just in our service area. We know it's happening all across the state. So in 2021, our warehouse, which can hold just over 7 million pounds, about the size of three football fields, was so full that we were actually renting offsite storage, uh, in order to keep up with it. And then our shelf stable inventory dropped, um, to about 20% at one point, 2022. So our response, um, well first, so what does that mean in terms of direct impacts? It impacts the, the volume of what we're able to distribute. Uh, but it also immediately takes, uh, you know, impacts on the variety of what we're able to put out. So when, when, um, you know, when, when a family comes, when a, when a senior and older adult comes needing help to put food on the table, uh, and we just don't have, uh, the amount or variety that they are, are looking for, uh, when, when their dollars don't go as far at the grocery store as they ever have.
Speaker 9 00:22:14 Um, so in response, we had to do a couple things. One, we pulled out of our reserves in order to go and do some emergency food purchasing. Um, we also went to our strong governmental partnerships at the local level and asked Columbus and Franklin County to step up, and they did. And we're incredibly grateful for that. Um, the issue with that is that, you know, those dollars from Columbus and Franklin County, um, are, are geographically locked into those communities. Uh, we serve 20 counties. So while our warehouse looks a good bit fuller today, you can walk through and there's, there's a lot of product on the shelf, you know, it's core items. We really focused on, you know, peanut butter, pasta, cereal, tuna, fish, you know, those, those core items in addition to the fresh, nutritious food that we really historically have focused on. Um, but a lot of that product can't get out to those other 19 counties. Uh, and so when we look at the fall getting into the holiday season, we really, you know, are struggling to make sure that we're gonna have the product that we need in order to, to serve our communities equitably and, and meet those needs. Uh, that really calls the need for these statewide solutions. And why we continue to call upon, uh, the governor and legislature to, to contribute meaningfully and step in, uh, and also speaks to the fact that these are, you know, local impacts of, of national challenges.
Speaker 10 00:23:27 My name's Lee Trusdale, and I am the Chief Development Officer here at the Food Bank in Dayton. Uh, we service Montgomery Green in half of Purple County, which we share with our great friends, Terry Perdue and his team at Shared Harvest, which are amazing partners, um, and neighbors in this work that we do, along with all other Ohio food banks. Um, what I wanted to talk about briefly today is the demand and the increase in need that we have seen here. Um, all communities in Ohio are different, but somewhere in some ways. So I can certainly echo what Kurt was saying about tornadoes taking, um, some services out in Kentucky. We saw that in 2019 with 15 tornadoes that of course, devastated a large portion of Montgomery County, particularly high demand in high poverty areas, and we've never really recovered from that. Um, so if I look back, we have been doing multiple mass food distributions in a normal year.
Speaker 10 00:24:17 We do three mass food distributions. The past two years, we have done eight total mass food distributions each year. Uh, 95% of our team is actually on site today doing another mass food distribution in the old North Bayton area, which is an area of high poverty and area of high need as well. And we're anticipating on probably seeing 800 to a thousand households coming through today. If we look back to April, 2020, we did, at that time, what I thought was our largest food distribution with over 1400 residents. We duplicated that again this year in August of 2022, just a few weeks ago, and did 1,477 services that day for individuals. So our need is really rivaling and staying on par with what we were seeing at the beginning of the pandemic and what we were seeing here locally as well. In the aftermath of the Memorial Day Tornadoes, uh, like many other food banks, we have had to dip into our funds to buy some extra food.
Speaker 10 00:25:11 Um, we joke here at the food bank that we're kind of pirates. We go after all the stuff that we can in terms of food rescue gleaning. Um, we have some onsite gardens that grow, some local produce as well, and a lot of really established partnerships. And of course, all the commodity product that comes through. But because of the challenges in food sourcing that many of the partners here today spoke about, our food purchases have doubled more than doubled in a normal year. We spend about half a million. Uh, this last fiscal year, we closed with 1.2 million in wholesale food purchases here locally, just to service two and a half counties. Um, we've had to make shifts in adjustments and how we ask for, uh, funds as well from our partners. We just did a direct mail campaign that normally would support our food rescue, our food sourcing, our food safety, our operations, and everything else.
Speaker 10 00:25:58 That's really important and critical to doing the work that we do. We ask our donors to shift those funds to giving directly to our wholesale food purchase program. Uh, fortunately the donors responded very well, and we've seen a lot of great success, but we're really robbing Peter to pay Paul at the end of the day. So we're seeing that reduction of funds and our core operating support to keep food safe, to keep food at temp, to pay our team members a sustainable living wage so they don't end up in the food line. So all of those things are really taking a hit while we're trying to patch all the problem that we're seeing in relation to sourcing food. And I am not gonna pass it off to Tommy.
Speaker 11 00:26:32 I just wanted to echo pretty much what my colleagues have said. We are in the same situation. I just went out this morning to take some pictures again, to provide for a meeting that I have tomorrow, and it's just astonishing to see the empty racks that we have right now. And what is on those racks is cleaning supplies or detergent, something like that, that people cannot eat. So we also rely heavily on U S D A and when those loads are canceled, we're having to go out, purchase those items. And what we're finding in our area is many of those items that we need are still unavailable, or there's such a long timeframe before you get them in, including the exponentially high cost, um, that really, you know, depletes a budget very fast. Uh, between July and August, we had a 36% increase of new families coming through our lines.
Speaker 11 00:27:32 And that trend is still going on. We are registering and did a distribution where it's going on right now. And most of those individuals that have registered have either, they're either new families or they haven't been here since March, April, you know, because they did have a small period of time that they didn't need that assistance, but now they're coming back to us. So it's, it's hard for us to try to keep meeting that demand as it keeps growing. And, um, we're reaching out to all donors that we have, but we don't have a lot of food manufacturers in our area either. So, you know, you can only go to those donors so many times before they say, you know, we are kind of capped out ourselves. Um, so, you know, we just really need the extra help right now to get that food and make sure that these Ohio ones that need food on their plates to have it.
Speaker 2 00:28:29 Thanks, Tommy. So, um, you hear, you can hear obviously that we're torn in, in many, many directions, right? As we try to respond. And what we're also grappling with our, some, some known upcoming additional crises that are ahead for us, as well as whatever the unexpected might bring, whether that be a natural disaster, the next pandemic, whatever it is. But we, we've, we're already seeing, for example, the loss of universal school meals, which we're available throughout the pandemic, impacting families with kids in, they're their budgets. We'll see when the public health emergency ends, uh, snap emergency allotments, which have been helping our poorest Ohioans, about 1.5 million of the poorest Ohioans afford more food for their families. Those emergency allotments that were approved, congressionally at the beginning of the pandemic will end when the public health emergency ends. For Ohio, that means about 120 million less a month in food purchasing power, Roughly half, if not more right now, of the people that we are serving make a little bit too much to qualify for snap.
Speaker 2 00:29:42 We're the only place they have to turn to right now, and we're gonna need to continue to serve them in addition to somehow trying to fill some gaps for people who are gonna lose significant, um, food assistance benefits when that public health emergency ends. You also heard, um, you know, you've probably heard that yesterday, um, you know, the interest rates are going up again, right? And this is with the intent to drive down stubborn inflation. The reality is that that will mean increased unemployment. It will mean lost jobs. It, you know, and we're not economists, we're not suggesting that we have all the answers, but we know that there will be new people coming to us, people in personal crisis and economic crisis. And so we have to be prepared to respond to all of those things that we're always expected and, and here to respond to.
Speaker 2 00:30:32 And that's why not only do, are we asking for emergency help also, we've been asking for about a year now for our state to invest their, um, state fiscal recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan Act in supporting our basic needs infrastructure. So these food banks are the, the, the local institutions that people in their communities counted on from day one of the pandemic. And you, you heard folks talking about the struggle to somehow maintain sustainable staffing, keep those fleets running, um, you know, keep the freezers on and, and keep that food coming in the door. And, you know, we really want to think forward. We wanna think forward and be ready to respond to whatever crises are ahead of us. So, um, you know, I al also wanted everyone to have a chance to speak briefly about some of what they need to, their major needs that they would like to see the state invest in, in partnership with us, so that we can be ready to do that. Um, so I'm gonna go ahead and, um, let Kristen respond, um, on that front first.
Speaker 8 00:31:39 Great, thanks, Joy. Um, and thanks for those comments. I mean, in addition to all the concerns that Joy mentioned, we also have a significant concern about the growing number of seniors who are gonna need our help in the future as seniors live longer, try to age at home, um, and frankly, run outta money. And we've already started seeing that in Cleveland. And so back in 20 20, 20, sorry, 18 pre pandemic, um, we did a strategic plan and we looked at our increases in distribution. And frankly, we looked at the growth and need, which has been significant. Um, we had tripled our distribution of food, um, and we knew that if we continued to do more for our community, which is what our community desperately needs from us, you know, Cleveland has too many times been rated as the poorest large city in America. Um, uh, we were gonna run outta space.
Speaker 8 00:32:26 And so we started planning for a capital expansion, ideally, to get ahead of that. Now, what happened is that the pandemic hit and we ran out of space overnight, um, because the need was so high. And thankfully we had, um, you know, wonderful resources like food from the U S D A that we could make available. Um, so we've been responding to the pandemic and now inflation on, on one track, and then on a parallel track, moving with as much urgency as possible, um, to try to expand this capacity for the long run. Um, we are, um, moving into a new distribution center, um, near here that's significantly larger and will help us provide more food and more prepared meals for seniors and others in the future. Um, but we are also, um, developing a community resource center. Um, and the goal of the Community Resource Center is to not only provide, um, a choice, a large scale choice pantry, open evenings and weekends for working poor families, um, full of fresh, perishable, fresh produce and high protein items, Um, but also to invite in other nonprofit partners that we've been referring to for years to help our clients address the underlying issues of hunger.
Speaker 8 00:33:40 You know, our goal is not only to address hunger today by providing more food, it's to address hunger for a lifetime by making sure that we've got fewer people in our community who need that emergency food, and that means connecting them to affordable housing or healthcare resources, um, or better paying jobs. And so we've got eight to 10 partners who are gonna move in with us here on site. Um, so we can be a one stop shop for clients in need. Um, uh, you know, we have been really grateful that our city and county have stepped up with APA dollars, um, to help cover some of the costs associated with this expansion. Um, we have a $10 million request with the state, which has been pending for actually quite some time, well over a year, um, in hopes that the state will do the same. You know, we served more than 300,000 Ohios, uh, last year, and, uh, we wanna do that better, and we wanna reduce hunger in the future. Um, but we really need for this to continue to be a public private partnership. Um, and we can't, we can't complete this project without state's support.
Speaker 6 00:34:41 Thanks, Kristen. Uh, yeah, you know, just sort of dovetail on that and build on that. You know, Freestar also undertook a historical capital campaign, uh, during this time when we were all addressing the, the ongoing needs of the pandemic. Uh, and our goal was to increase the capacity of not only our own operations, but also of the 600 plus pantries that we support, uh, in the 20 county serve by the free store. And that's, so when you think about it, one thing the pandemic showed us is that so many communities were disproportionately impacted, and most of those communities were by, uh, you know, uh, and, and, and those communities you looked at and you said to yourself, Why? Because we didn't have the bricks and mortar to, to do the things that we had to do. So, you know, all of us here on the on call today responded by doing popups, you know, where we'd bring our trucks out when we would do, you know, know, uh, produce distributions or, you know, uh, you know, uh, just opportunities to sort of share, You know, we have a, we have a program here at Free Store called Healthy Harvest Mobile Market.
Speaker 6 00:35:47 We go to 12, uh, food deserts in, in the 20 county serve by the free store food bank to get food to families that have barriers to do that. But our challenge right now is to build an increased capacity of our pantry partners. When you think about, you know, prior to the pandemic, uh, they can get away with having a, you know, a, a small, you know, refrigerator or a small freezer set up. But now they've gotten to the point where they need to be able to have the inventory on, on site, and be able to have a really, a hub and spoke type of model here. So, you know, our, our pantry, our, our main distribution centers serve as the hub, and we're going out into the spokes, which is basically meeting the needs of the communities that we're serving. And when you think about just the demographics that we're all dealing with in terms of just outreach, uh, it's very challenging for those, uh, those pantries to do more with what they have.
Speaker 6 00:36:45 And that's why the food banks throughout Ohio have asked the governor to provide capacity building grants to allow us to respond, as Joey said, to the next catastrophe, because we know this isn't gonna be the, the end of it. Uh, but we know that we have to position ourselves now just like any other for-profit organization. We have to be able to have those resources to apply and promote. And what you will see across the board here is that we do capital campaigns that are local philanthropic support, but if we don't have that state partnership, those federal dollars and those state dollars that are all allocated to support these families that we're serving, we're not gonna be able to get by. And that's really the challenge that, uh, I think we're all confronted with. So I think Julie's gonna talk a little bit about some of the transportation needs of our communities.
Speaker 3 00:37:35 So I'm sure that you've heard the term, uh, silvers, tsunami, um, and I think in northern Ohio, we're experiencing it maybe a little bit faster than the rest of the state. Um, so we've seen a huge increase, um, in the number of seniors seeking food assistance, um, particularly during the pandemic. Um, and that has not abated. Uh, we, you know, years ago it was maybe 7% of who we served, and now it's almost 25% of who we serve, our seniors over over 60. But one of the big challenges for seniors is mobility issues and transportation. And one of the things that we're trying to address, especially in our rural communities, um, in urban areas, um, we're, we're, we're fortunate that we're, we're working with DoorDash on what's called Project Dash, uh, to deliver boxes directly to, to seniors and urban areas, but unfortunately doesn't exist, um, really in rural parts of our communities.
Speaker 3 00:38:22 Um, and there's no Uber and there's no Lyft. Um, and so we're trying to address how do we deliver food directly to seniors and how do we get it to, to people who are most, who are most vulnerable. Um, it was actually out in Willard, um, earlier this week, and that was something that one of the staff there brought up to me. One of the volunteers at, at the food distribution said, We can no longer deliver food to seniors anymore because people, uh, can't pay for the gas to put it in their cars, um, to deliver the boxes. And so one of the things we're looking at is how do we address that need long term? And trying to think through how do we deliver food? Um, you know, thinking about Vans, trucks, um, things that can deliver things directly to people's homes because, you know, unfortunately the aging population isn't going away. And, and this is a population that's living off of social security, um, when the public health emergency ends, even though seniors who've been receiving additional funding, uh, through Snap It, it, right now it's at $216 a month, um, when the public health emergency end, that's gonna go down to $16 a month. Um, so we're anticipating we're gonna see a lot more seniors, um, in the winter months, um, needing additional assistance. Um, so I think Terry is gonna speak next.
Speaker 7 00:39:27 So here at Shared Harvest, we sit on 10 acres of land. We're very fortunate in that way. Um, but we actually had to sell four acres of that land to build a volunteer center. And so as we see nearly half of our food supply dry up, we're looking to other means to fill in that gap. And for those of us who don't have the reserves to spend $60,000 on a truckload of peanut butter, you know, we look to our communities to do food drives and, um, but with food drives, you have to sort through all of that and package it and distribute it. And so then we rely on volunteers. And so, um, our plan is to build a building, um, to have the volunteers sorting through all of those donations. Um, and so the monies from that, the land sale were using to build this volunteer center to be able to do that, whereas in the existing building that I'm in, I have leaking roofs and so many other challenges, um, that we had initially earmarked that money for. And so, um, we're definitely still seeking capital dollars to help with all the other issues that we have as well. Um, and I'll hand it to you, Lee, to talk more.
Speaker 10 00:40:48 Thanks Jerry. Um, so what I, uh, wanted to share with you, and I tee this up briefly and my last point was our team growth. So we started the pandemic with a total of 32 team members at the food bank. I have been here for a decade, and when I started we had 12. Uh, today we have 63 employees. So just in the time, starting in 2022, uh, just this month we have more than or almost doubled our team. What's unique about our team and our culture is that we have had to double like, um, some other few banks, I'm sure, or add team members to respond to direct needs and do direct service in addition to of course, supporting our partner agencies. But what is unique about our team is 40% of our team is reentry. So there are folks who have a prior involvement in the criminal justice system.
Speaker 10 00:41:34 Many of them are living in active recovery. Um, and while it's important and it's something that is in our strategic plan, it's something we are committed to here at the food bank for a number of reasons, including stabilizing their lives, um, making sure that they're not the ones who need food assistance, paying a sustainable wage of $18 an hour and paying a hundred percent of healthcare benefits, providing the opportunity for folks to attend the court appointments that they need to go to, uh, to fulfill whatever obligations they might have to fulfill, why they're in probation. Um, with that comes also additional challenges for our team. And, um, with everything that's been going on, sometimes when our neighbors don't show up as their best selves interacting with our team, that's hard. And we have a lot of food bankers I know who have had to undergo some crisis care management and support, while we are taking on often the brunt of somebody living in crisis.
Speaker 10 00:42:24 And what that means for some folks who are living in active recovery is relapse. And we've had about five relapses here at the food bank just in the last few months. Um, but again, we're committed to this work and, and it's been a really great way for us to meet this immediate need and ensure also at the end of the day, that we're helping folks who otherwise might need that food assistance. So for us, it's a real sustainable way to making sure that we are playing an impact in addressing food insecurity. Um, and two last quick things. I just wanted to give two quick shoutouts. We actually have a grant as well that is pending with the Department of Justice, uh, with a letter of support from Senator Rob Portman. And we are also waiting, hopefully, for some congressionally directed spending dollars to come through by the end of this calendar year. It's currently in a bill and working its way through. Um, and that is supported by Representative Mike Turner. So they've both been really supportive of these re-entry efforts and work that we're doing. And so, uh, we feel very fortunate to them and are very grateful and thankful for their support. So up next is Tyra.
Speaker 4 00:43:23 Um, right now our facility is not going to allow us to continue to do the work that we need to do. Food banking has completely changed since we have moved into our facility, um, where it used to be just collecting canned goods and dry goods. We're now doing refrigeration type things. And our facility, we have pipes in our floor that are two, three feet high. We are, I always say that our forklift drivers are some of the best crafty people that we know to be able to be able to maneuver around things. Um, but it's not safe. We just had our representatives come in and do a walk the last Friday. Um, they were shocked. A couple of them actually, um, own, um, warehouses and manufacturing and they were like osha. And so, um, these are things that we're really looking at. We must must look at it because we know our community depends on us. And in order for us to do this, we're going to happen, need another facility. We're reaching out to our local community. But as we said before, our community doesn't have those large resources. So we will need state assistance to assist us and we need those
Speaker 0 00:44:33 Cabinets.
Speaker 1 00:44:41 This was just a snippet of the complex challenges that our network is facing. I want to encourage you, especially in the final days of Hunger Action Month, to help out your local food bank or food pantry by donating your time, money, or food and personal care items. However, most importantly, I hope you visit the links in the show notes to learn more about our state APER request and why this funding is so desperately needed. It requires all of us. Thank you, and we'll talk to you soon.