Feeding Kids over the Summer Break
Brittany worried as summer approached how she’d feed her three children and mother. Despite working full time at a grocery store and part time at a restaurant, Brittany’s children were eligible for the free breakfast and lunch program at school.
So when Brittany received a flyer from the school about the Second Harvest Summer Food Program, she called immediately to learn more.
Second Harvest fed 200 students over the summer break with nutritious “power packs” of food for children and additional items provided by the mobile pantry each week. The pilot program visited six locations in Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties.
Brittany’s mother, Harriet, was amazed by the variety of food available when she first visited the mobile pantry. She said, “This is going to help our family out tremendously. At times it can be a struggle to make sure we have enough for the kids. Often me and Brittany will go without or fix a piece of toast to make sure the kids have enough. They are growing boys.”
When talking with Harriet, Second Harvest staff learned she was 64 and qualified for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for seniors. She completed the application and the next week received her first food box. She was also able to go to the pantry.
“I just didn’t realize this was available. I was able to get salad, beans, cereal, cabbage, onions, and potatoes. I can make a meal out of the potatoes and onions alone,” Harriet said.
Donate to the Second Harvest “power pack program” to reduce food insecurity in Clark, Champaign, and Logan Counties, by typing “Second Harvest Power Packs” in the comment box so your gift is directed properly.
Second Harvest Serves Hope & Compassion
Walter is one of more than 30,000 people struggling to avoid hunger in Clark, Champaign and Logan counties served by the Second Harvest Food Bank.
Food insecurity affects individuals and families who lack consistent access to food due to a lack of money or other resources.
Walter visited the Second Harvest Mobile Pantry every month. Second Harvest staff befriended Walter and learned he was struggling with more than hunger. Walter had lost proof of his U.S. citizenship due to multiple moves over the years and as a consequence couldn’t apply for social security or other benefits.
He worked odd jobs and relied heavily on his credit card. This situation kept Walter from eating consistently.
A Second Harvest Food Bank staff member recommended Gifts of the Magi, a program supported by several agencies including Catholic Charities. The staff member assisted Walter in applying for emergency assistance from Gifts of the Magi to cover the expenses of his citizenship documentation and rent to avoid eviction.
Gifts of the Magi provided the emergency funds and within one month, Walter received proof of his citizenship that allowed him to apply for social security and SNAP. SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income citizens.
Now, Walter no longer needs to visit the food pantry to stop hunger but he’s no stranger to the Second Harvest staff. Walter serves as a volunteer at the food bank. He says he’s grateful that kind staffers took the time to get know him and guide him to a better place. He looks to the future with hope.
How We Serve the Poor
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing,
broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied.”
Catholic Charities efforts to serve the poor by feeding the hungry expanded last year to reach more school-aged children in Springfield schools and families in counties east of Cincinnati.
In Springfield, Catholic Charities Second Harvest Foodbank partnered with schools for a grant to provide “Power Packs” of weekend meals to students who otherwise would go hungry over the weekend.
One of the families whose two children receive Power Packs temporarily lost their home. With no permanent residence, the Power Packs meant they had one less thing to worry about as they sought shelter. Another child receiving Power Packs shared with her teacher that the only food she ate was what she received at school. Her mother wasn’t feeding her. Caseworkers removed the child from the mother’s custody and placed her into temporary foster home to prevent starvation.
Another woman who is raising her grandchildren shared her gratitude for Power Packs.
“Raising my grandchildren is hard. I have a limited income and we make do with what we have. When the kids started bringing the food home last year it was a blessing. It was very helpful in the summer when food was available for the kids, too. They absolutely loved the fresh fruit. And, I was able to use the mobile to pick up food for a couple of meals. The food you provide is helping us get by,” the grandmother said.
As Catholic Charities Parish Outreach Director Scott Stephens visited with pastors and parish staff across the 11 counties served by the agency, feeding the hungry was one of the top concerns from parishes in the Eastern Counties.
“I met with pastors, ministers from other faiths and other groups to try and understand the needs and where the need was greatest,” Stephens said. “Our initial plan was to send a mobile pantry to these communities like Second Harvest but that wasn’t practical.”
Instead, Stephens worked with the FreeStore Foodbank to order pallets of food that would be dropped off at distribution points in rural food deserts in Adams, Brown, Clermont, Clinton and Highland counties. He partnered with local churches – Catholic and Protestant – to identify locations and recruit volunteers. It takes between 20 and 30 volunteers to set up and execute food distributions five times a month. They enjoy making a difference in the lives of their neighbors.
The program is called Food for All in solidarity with a campaign launched in 2013 by Pope Francis to end hunger. During the first 12 months, Food for All distributed 412,000 pounds of food and personal care products to the five counties. On average, Food for All served 1,400 people per month.
Now, Food for All is expanding into Hamilton County by providing Power Packs of weekend meals to students at St. Clements, St. Martin of Tours and Sts. Peter and Paul schools. Each weekend qualifying students receive a Power Pack for the weekend. Once per month, the school opens a pantry on site for their families. The food is provided by Catholic Charities.
Sometimes people are reluctant to accept food because they believe their neighbors may need it more. Stephens said, “I ask them how they get by when they run out of money. We’re here to enable them to stretch their resources further so they can afford the gas money to get to work or pay their electric bills. One client who came to us in the beginning is now a volunteer. He got a better paying job, and he wants to give back.”
Learn more about Food for All.
Martha Fund Returns Woman to Work
Toni, 32, was desperate.
She underwent a simple medical procedure a year ago that caused bladder complications so severe she could no longer work. For nine months she saw specialist after specialist. No one could resolve her medical issues.
Then one day she visited a gynecologist who specialized in bladder control who told Toni her medical issues could be resolved with a medical device. But she would need surgery. Unfortunately, Toni’s insurance did not cover the device.
So Toni called United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline and was referred to the Second Harvest Food Bank where she began receiving emergency food assistance. As the Second Harvest staff got to know Toni better and understood her medical needs, they tapped “Martha Funds” to cover the cost of the device which was just $802. The Martha Fund is designed to assist women in Clark County from slipping into poverty.
Toni’s surgery was a success. Now she is back at work and living a productive life.
Feeding the Hungry
About 30 volunteers stood in prayer inside the sanctuary at the Greater Life Assembly of God Church in Hillsboro on a cold February morning. Pastor “Red” Gallimore talked warmly about those they’d serve in a couple of hours.
The pastor quoted the Bible in describing how they would feed “the least of these” in the community who would visit the first Catholic Charities Food for All Pantry.
Annie Mustard of Community Outreach said many of the nearly 200 people expected to visit the mobile pantry find it difficult traveling up to 30 minutes to the nearest conventional food pantry. Mustard explained, “They’re isolated in rural areas. They lack transportation to get to jobs to work or food pantries for assistance. Many will rely on friends to drop them off here or will carpool with neighbors.”
Many people were surprised to learn that Catholic Charities Food for All Pantry was coming to them. One elderly woman told Mustard that the pantry food would allow her to put aside extra money in her propane fund for heating.
One volunteer, Mark Fiske, said, “I want to invest in the community to make it better. This area is depressed. This (mobile pantry) is needed in the area.”
Catholic Charities is introducing Food for All mobile pantries in rural areas in Adam, Brown, Clermont, Clinton, Highland and Warren counties. Catholic Charities partners with community service providers and churches in these counties to determine locations based on need and accessibility. The goal is to provide 22 mobile food pantry visits this year.
This program is made possible by contributions made to the One Faith, One Hope, One Love campaign which is enabling Catholic Charities to serve even more people.
Fighting Food Insecurity
Just north of Greater Cincinnati, Clark County has one of the highest rates of food insecurity for children in Ohio. One out of every four children lives in a home struggling to consistently provide meals.
The Second Harvest Food Bank is fighting childhood hunger with a backpack program that provides nutritious, child friendly meals and easy-to-prepare food for schoolchildren to take home on the weekends and school vacations. Backpacks are discreetly distributed to children on the last day before the weekend or holiday vacation.
The pilot program serves up to 650 schoolchildren every week in grades K-6 at Fulton Elementary School in Springfield. The backpack program will run through the end of the school year.
“Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs such as housing or medical bills and purchasing nutritionally adequate food,” said Tyra Jackson, executive director of Second Harvest. “We’re partnering with Springfield City School District to improve nutrition and decrease childhood food insecurity because healthy children do better in school.”
Proper nutrition is shown to help increase test scores, improve attendance, reduce behavior issues, increase attention span and prepare stronger leaders for future, Jackson explained.
Volunteers from Second Harvest, Fulton Elementary School, Wittenberg University, and Clark State Community College pack the backpacks. Students have the option to take home a fully stocked backpack.
“We will use information from the pilot test program at Fulton to apply for grants to expand this program. It is our goal to offer programs in each of the schools throughout our service area (Clark, Champaign, and Logan Counties) in the future,” Jackson said. Feeding America provided a $15,000 grant to partially fund this pilot program.
Providing Hope and Comfort
As Bill Carpenter, Second Harvest volunteer coordinator, walked past the intake office, he couldn’t help but notice the weeping client. She was clearly humbled by the experience of asking for assistance. Erma, a pantry volunteer, was trying to comfort her, sharing her own story of tragedy and triumph.
“I know it is hard to believe right now, but things will get better. You will get through this.” He was moved by Erma’s attempt to emotionally hold and support Sarah as she shared her pain.
Sarah is trying to make ends meet in a household of six with a monthly income of only $800 and $400 in food stamps. Her husband is so ill he cannot work but has been turned down for assistance. Sarah’s chronic depression doesn’t make the challenges any easier to face. Her property taxes are years in arrear and she risks losing their house, the only thing material she has left since the family car quit running.
“We wouldn’t have food in the house today if Catholic Charities didn’t help us.” Sarah said. When he asked her if he could share her story she began to sob again. “You are the first people who cared enough to listen. I feel like you understand and really care. This gives me hope.” She said.
Today the pantry is made possible by a volunteer team who stocks shelves, informs clients of choices and assists them to their cars. Thanks to our sponsors and volunteers, the people in our area facing challenges, like Sarah’s, will continue to have hope.
New Model Serves More
It was the last woman who ran into the food pantry in tears, wrapping her arms around Laura Haverkos that made the experiment at Catholic Charities Food Pantry in Springfield worthwhile.
Most food pantries close the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. But a team at Second Harvest Food Bank wanted to try something different at the onsite food pantry. They had an abundance of produce driven by Feeding America’s push for fresh and healthy food and the generosity of donors like Kroger. With more food to distribute to area agencies, they wanted to explore every opportunity to serve more people.
Typically, clients call the in the morning when the Catholic Charities food pantry opens to schedule an appointment where they select items and receive a pre-packaged box. The day is fully booked within 30 minutes of phone lines opening. If you don’t get through, you are out of luck.
But Laura and her colleagues decided to try something different at the end of December. Rather than requiring appointments and pre-packing boxes, they flung the doors open wide and allowed people to select the items they wanted while encouraging healthy choices from each of the food groups.
“We didn’t have any lines because we didn’t want people standing outside in the cold. Instead, we brought everyone inside and got to know them,” says Laura, the procurement specialist. “We treat people like people so they leave us with hope and dignity.”
The experiment exceeded expectations, serving about 400 people per day vs. 275 in the appointment system.
Volunteer Coordinator Bill Carpenter says this experiment is now turning into a “volunteer-run” model where clients have complete choice over their food items three days per week. They’re encouraged to visit weekly for bulk items such as fresh produce and bread and monthly for pantry items like non-perishables and meat.
The pantry just got a fresh coat of paint from a senior volunteer and educational posters are placed to encourage healthy choices as part of the improvements.
“We’re sharing this model with other agencies,” says Emily Rudy, agency relations coordinator. “We have so much to give. As we serve more, we can assist others to do the same.”
Second Harvest is always looking for volunteers, particularly groups. Volunteers enable us to serve even more people. If you’re interested, visit https://www.springfieldshfb.org/GetInvolved/Volunteer.aspx or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second Harvest Serving Compassion
At first glance, they looked like any other middle-class retired couple. By the way they scanned the crowd, taking in the lines of people registering and selecting fresh and shelf-stable items from the truck, you may have taken them for uncomfortable tourists. But the Second Harvest Food Bank staff recognized them immediately. These were first timers with a better-than-average car and nicer clothes who never expected to find themselves at a food pantry.
Despite a lifetime of working and doing everything right, the couple were only a few years into what they hoped to be their golden years, when their daughter, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with cancer. Luckily, she had insurance. But when she lost her long battle with the disease she left them to care for her daughter, Diane.
Naturally they’re devoted to Diane. But their plan didn’t include raising and caring for another little girl at this stage of their lives. When expenses outpaced their savings, they cut corners … or went without.
But that only lasted so long.
Through Second Harvest, Catholic Charities supplies food pantries in Clark, Champaign and Logan counties. On a day-to-day basis, we work with the people who distribute the food to needy families in the region, not with the families themselves.
We also operate our own food pantries, in addition to the mobile pantry made possible by a generous grant from Kraft Foods Group. We welcome clients at the food bank and in the autumn we bring the mobile pantry there.
That’s where we met Linda and Joe.
“This actually is a pattern over the last decade,” explains Keith Williamson, director of the food bank. “As the economy has changed, parents move away to look for suitable work and plan to send for their kids when they can afford to support them again. Sometimes it takes longer than they expected.”
Our volunteers helped Linda and her husband verify need and income, explained the process, and assured them they were not alone.
Pope Francis explains that help is the last thing the poor – especially the working poor – want from us. More than anything, they want dignity and respect.