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Philanthropy Friday: Mid-Ohio Foodbank

 columbus imPRessions Philanthropy Friday: Mid-Ohio Foodbank
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No One Should Go Hungry

In the late 1970’s, Columbus was impacted by the economic recession and unemployment was at an all time high. Because of this, the number of people coming to food pantries was on the rise. Food demand was high but the supply was low. Local food pantry workers learned how to “glean” from the food industry and with a $1,000 grant a food bank was born. As fate would have it, the first donation was Valentine’s Day candy that pantries gave out at Easter that year.

Originally named Operation Feed Foodbank, it took time, several moves, a lot of community outreach and education before finding a home on Mound Street. Early advocates had to convince potential donors that, in fact, there were hungry people living in the community; hunger has a tendency to stay “out of sight, out of mind.” They also had to demonstrate to food donors that they provided a safe place to donate excess or outdated food. In 1981, the first Operation Feed food drive was held, collecting more than 500,000 food items to distribute among member food pantries. Five years later, the name changed from Operation Feed to Mid-Ohio Foodbank and they moved into their current facility.

Collecting and Distributing Food

It takes quite a network to feed hungry people in the community. Food and grocery products are shared with a diverse network of over 530 food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers, homeless shelters, and afterschool programs in a 20 county service area, which stretches from just west of Franklin County to the West Virginia border.

Over the years, priceless partnerships with the food and grocery industry have been made as 50% of the food donations come from manufacturers, supermarkets, growers, wholesalers, produce vendors, restaurants, and foodservice operations. Big Lots! is the largest local food donor, and great food donations also come from Giant Eagle, Kroger, Walmart and Sam’s Club. State and federal food purchase programs provide an additional 30% of the food inventory while community food drives make up the remaining 20%.

Mid-Ohio Foodbank also has an amazing partnership with Ohio farmers through a program called the “Ohio Ag. Surplus Program.” Last year almost six million pounds of fresh produce was distributed throughout the network.

Increase in Emergency Food Assistance

Right now, Mid-Ohio Foodbank is providing food for almost 50,000 meals each day. When looking at this year’s numbers compared to 2007, pantries are reporting on average a 39% increase in the amount of clients they are serving. With that said, Mid-Ohio Foodbank is distributing more food than ever before. This is largely due to the enormous generosity of the community. Many community members and businesses have stepped up with food and monetary donations and Mid-Ohio Foodbank truly appreciates the outpouring of support. Unfortunately, Mid-Ohio Foodbank is not able to keep up with the demand and a growing number of families are going hungry.

If you are interested in making a food donation, you can drop off donations at the Foodbank, 1625 West Mound Street, Columbus. For hours and directions, click here.

The Campaign to Sustain

Mid-Ohio Foodbank has been operating at capacity at the Mound Street location for the past six years. In January 2008, they embarked on a $16 million fundraising drive to construct a new facility in Grove City, which will be completed this October. The facility will have three times more space to store food, three times more space for volunteers, and a greater capacity to educate the community on the issue of hunger. They will also have community gardens on-site, as well as a food pantry that will directly serve local families and individuals in need.

As part of their fundraising, they have received an exciting challenge from The Kresge Foundation, one of the country’s most respected grant makers, from Troy, Michigan. Kresge will award $1,450,000 to help pay for the facility if campaign fundraising is completed by March 31, 2010. This is an “all or nothing” challenge, which means the deadline must be met in order to receive any funding from Kresge.

The community has been extremely supportive of Mid-Ohio Foodbank’s efforts so far. To date they have raised just over $13.5 million, but they still need to raise $2.5 million by March 31, 2010 to reach the goal. To donate to the Campaign to Sustain, click here. Every gift brings them closer to receiving the $1,450,000 Kresge Challenge.

Mark Your Calendar

On June 30, a wonderful group of local restaurants will dedicate a portion of their sales receipts to feeding hungry people. The Central Ohio Restaurant Association (CORA) is partnering with Mid-Ohio Foodbank to organize this unique “eat out to fight hunger” opportunity.

They are hoping people will schedule a breakfast, happy hour, AND dinner with friends on June 30. Five percent of all proceeds at participating restaurants benefit the Foodbank. The group of participating restaurants offers a great variety of neighborhoods, cuisines, and price points. Click here for a list of participating restaurants.

Giving Takes Time

Last year, over 6,800 individuals came to the Foodbank and volunteered their time donating 28,000 hours of service. Mid-Ohio Foodbank enlists volunteers to collect food, sort and inventory food donations, pack boxes of food and grocery products, participate in Operation Feed, or organize a food drive of their own. Individuals, community groups, and corporate teams can all volunteer at the Foodbank. After moving into their new facility later this fall, they will have triple the space for volunteer projects. To become a volunteer for Mid-Ohio Foodbank, click here.

Hunger is here and the better we understand it, the better we are at finding solutions to it.

To read a touching behind the scenes story about Mid-Ohio Foodbank and to see more photos visit ColumbusImpressions.com.

For more information on Mid-Ohio Foodbank and to learn about other innovative programs beyond food and rescue visit MidOhioFoodBank.org.

Philanthropy Friday is a feature article by columbus imPRessions that will highlight a Columbus area non-profit organization every other week.

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