For most of us, the holidays are synonymous with a bounty of homemade, rich-with-tradition (and calories!) food. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, it’s one non-stop feast.
But not for everyone. In Cincinnati, many people face hunger every day — and during the holidays, this problem becomes even more pronounced. It’s estimated that 1 in 7 people in the tristate do not know where their next meal is coming from, and this problem affects 80,000 children in Greater Cincinnati.
Luckily, Cincinnati has Freestore Foodbank, a nonprofit that’s working in the community to eliminate hunger and serve at-risk families. What began in 1971 as a foodbank, has expanded to include eviction prevention, rental assistance, employment, job training and many school programs.
From its high-profile Rubber Duck Regatta to holiday food drives and daily food distribution, Freestore Foodbank is a nonprofit superhero in the Cincinnati community. Cincinnati Parent spoke with Freestore Foodbank’s chief development officer Trisha Rayner about how this organization is working to eliminate hunger in the tristate, and how we can all pitch in to help.
Freestore Foodbank’s mission is to eliminate hunger in the tristate. Tell us about that.
Freestore Foodbank’s mission is to improve lives by eliminating hunger in partnership with our community. Our vision is a hunger-free, healthy and thriving community by providing nutritious food, connecting to support services and offering a pathway from crisis to stability.
How does your organization tackle this multi-faceted issue?
We go beyond food. We know that food is an immediate need and a vital service to help people avert crisis. What we do differently from most foodbanks is help our community reduce vulnerability through our stabilization programs, and build capacity in our workforce development programs. Our goals are to not only feed the line, but shorten the line.
There are so many Cincy kids affected by hunger. What kinds of programs does Freestore Foodbank offer families, specifically with young children?
Through our school pantry program, Power Pack Program, local clinic pantries and Healthy Harvest Mobile Market, we specifically target feeding children and their families where they live and work.
The holidays are approaching and are one of the most challenging — and high–profile — times of the year for children and families facing hunger. What can Cincinnati parents do to help local families in need?
The holidays are an important and challenging time to feed families. We have our holiday distribution at our Liberty Street Market during Thanksgiving and Christmas, where last year we served over 10,000 households. Cincinnati parents can help by donating money to support food purchasing, and donating time as volunteers to help distribute food during these holiday times. Find more information about volunteer opportunities on Freestore Foodbank’s website.
Holidays aside, what are some other ways we as a community can help eliminate hunger?
Each day, think of ways to eliminate hunger right in your neighborhood. Help someone you know who may be struggling to make ends meet. Give food donations to your neighborhood food pantry. Organize a virtual food drive. Volunteer to help pack or distribute food. Everyone can help by being involved.