Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio Second Harvest Food Bank

#1:  SHFB was able to leverage United Way support to attract funding for a new Youth-focused food & nutrition program.  Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign, & Logan Counties (SHFB) created and implemented The Summer Food Backpack Program (SFBP) to identify and assist food-insecure children and families.  The program’s main goal was to help increase the amount of food that food-insecure children receive in the summer months while out of school.  The secondary goals of the program were to provide emergency assistance to families through mobile pantry distributions and to provide educational and engaging activities for the children in attendance.  The program distributed pre-packed bags of kid-friendly food to children and mobile pantry products to adults at 4 different sites within our service area using our mobile pantry truck.  The Clark County distribution took place on Thursdays at Fulton Elementary School in Springfield in conjunction with summer school dismissal.  SHFB had previously partnered with Fulton during the spring semester’s Backpack Program.
Along with food, the children also received small toys and prizes that encouraged outdoor play such as bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and Frisbees that they could decorate.  At one of our sites, we partnered with the Ohio State University Extension Office (OSU) to take advantage of their Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.  OSU provided activities focused on nutrition and healthy living for the children.  Children were not required to participate in the OSU program in order to receive food.  Volunteer groups were utilized for packing the SFBP bags and assisting with distributions.  Our partnerships led to increased attendance from children and families.  By targeting both adults and children, we saw served many more children who accompanied parents to the distribution.  The program’s consistency also increased attendance and we saw many of the same faces each week. The locations of the four sites were paramount to our success.  Being directly in the neighborhoods we served meant families and children alike could walk to our distributions.  The SFBP transformed a regular food distribution into a multifaceted program through its partnerships.  With OSU providing kid-friendly activities, they were able to engage children and making it more meaningful and more impactful.

Lessons Learned
Making partnerships simple and easy had a big impact on the program’s success.  By using SHFB’s own resources and programs, we were able to serve a larger number of people.  It also increased the Mobile Pantry Program’s number of distributions and the number of clients served throughout the summer.  Our partnerships with the outreach centers and school required very little on their end; they simply had to provide us with a space to park the truck, help us spread the word, and coordinate schedules.  Moving forward, we would like to invite other agencies to share information in order to increase the number of partnerships and the resources available to the children and families present at the distribution.
Volunteers were key to accomplishing this project and we wouldn’t have been able to succeed without volunteers packing bags.  We were able to have successful distributions without much of a volunteer presence, but things would have been much easier had volunteers but involved.  As we continue this program, we will look for more volunteer groups to assist with distributions and packing, making it possible for us to expand.  

#2:  SHFB operates an on-site emergency food pantry that assists our neighbors in need on a daily basis.  We serve around 80 household each day, 1,600 households per month averaging between 250-400 new families every month.  Many of our clients are medically challenged.  For instance, George, an elderly gentleman, suffers from poor health.  He has kidney related illnesses that restrict his diet.  George is on a fixed income relying on social security benefits to cover all his monthly expenses.  Over the last two years, his SNAP benefits have been reduced to the point where he must use the Food Pantry on a regular basis.  George relies on the fresh produce and low fat dairy products to supplement his diet and help to keep him healthy.  By using the pantry George is able to maintain a healthier diet even under reduced financial circumstances.

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