Greater Cleveland Food Bank serves hope in time of need
A single mother works full time at a local restaurant, but admits it’s a struggle to feed her two children on just one salary.
An elderly woman who recently had surgery is unable to get to the grocery store, and shares that even if she could, it would be too difficult to prepare the food.
Two young boys look forward to their school lunch as it is the only meal they get each day.After his salary was drastically cut, a 52-year-old man and his wife have to choose between food and keeping their utilities on.
In our area, these scenarios are all too common.
According to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s website, one in six northeast Ohioans is food insecure, meaning they do not know where their next meal will come from.
“Last year alone, the Food Bank served over 300,000 of our neighbors who don’t always know where their next meal is coming from and made possible more than 57 million meals,” said Karen Pozna, director of Communications for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. “For forty years, our relentless goal has been to provide the highest quality, most nutritious food we possibly can to anyone who needs it. In recent years, we began outreach efforts to connect people who are food insecure with other resources as well – most notably SNAP.”
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank, located on South Waterloo Road in Cleveland, serves more than 1000 partner programs in six northeast Ohio counties including Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, and Ashtabula. Clients can take advantage of the many food pantries available if they have transportation and are able to pick up food. These pantries work with the food bank to distribute food for free to those who are hungry in the community.
But Pozna explains that almost half of the food bank’s clients are made up of seniors and children, who are unable to leave their homes.
“We try to think creatively with these groups,” says Pozna. “We recently started a mobile food pantry that takes food such as fresh fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy products to underserved areas and to people who don’t have transportation.”
To serve the rising number of hungry children in northeast Ohio, the food bank came up with another creative solution––the BackPacks for Kids program.
“We supply schools with backpacks to hand out to children who qualify,” says Pozna. “The backpacks can be taken home for the weekend and are stuffed with enough food for six meals––breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The kids love them and are so excited to see what they will get each weekend.”
According to Pozna, more than one million healthy meals were supplied through the kids program last year and the need is growing. With limited resources and partner pantries, Pozna explains what may be the food bank’s most important work —helping link individuals to the right programs.
“There are thousands of people in our area who are eligible for food stamps that don’t take advantage of that opportunity,” says Pozna. “We really try to connect people to resources that are already out there for them.”
As the holidays and cold weather approach, Pozna says the Food Bank is always in need of volunteers to collect, sort, and repack food; distribute produce; or work in the kitchen. Virtual food drives are also available and can be customized to schools, groups, or businesses. But the biggest help according to Pozna is monetary donations.
“Through the buying power and the help of volunteers and local groups, $1 can help provide four nutritious meals,” says Pozna. “We can make money go so much further than actual food.”
If you are in need of food assistance, the Food Bank Help Center is open Monday through Friday at 216-738-2067.
For those interested in volunteering or purchasing tickets to the upcoming Taste of the Browns event on September 9, visit www.greaterclevelandfoodbank.org.