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The Volunteer Connection August 2017

Mediaon August 3rd, 2017Comments Off on The Volunteer Connection August 2017

Corporate Volunteer Groups: 84.51


Corporate Volunteer Groups: 84.51

All across the agency, staff and volunteers are preparing for the Rubber Duck Regatta. On Sunday, September 3, 2017 over 170,000 rubber ducks will be dumped into the Ohio River, hopefully raising over a million dollars to help provide food and services to our neighbors in need. Preparations for the regatta begin weeks in advance. Before the race, ducks are shipped in from all over the country. Each duck comes with a tag which is removed and replaced with another tag, before getting loaded into a huge truck that will carry it to the river. This is one of the most important steps in getting the ducks ready to race and will take place two weeks prior to the event at the Mayerson Distribution Center. As you can imagine, it takes many, many volunteers to accomplish this in a short period of time.

For the past many years, 84.51 has taken on the challenge to help the Freestore pluck and tag ducks prior to the Rubber Duck Regatta. This year, 84.51 has committed to volunteering in 6 out of the 10 shifts needed to get our ducks ready for the big day. Thanks to their commitment and to others in our community, we know this huge task will be accomplished!



It’s Duck Season at the Freestore Foodbank! We Have a Variety of Volunteer Opportunities Just for YOU!!

Check Out Duck Store Monitors: Adopt a Kroger Store
Get Ready to Have a Quacktabulous Good Time: Quacky, the Rubber Duck Regatta Mascot
Help Sell the Winning Duck: Kroger Weekend Duck Sales
Duck Central Volunteers: Take Duck Sales Calls
Get our Ducks Ready for the Big Race: Duck Plucking and Tagging Volunteers
The Grand Finale: Rubber Duck Regatta


It’s Time to Harvest at the Giving Fields
Sign up to pack Power Packs at the Distribution Center this fall!

Check out the volunteer registration and information page to learn how to sign up to volunteer for our ongoing group and individual volunteer opportunities at the Mayerson Distribution Center, Customer Connection Center’s Food Room, and Giving Fields.

Food Drives
Employment Opportunities


Thank you to the following groups for your support July 2017!
We sincerely appreciate their continued support and contribution of their time.

Mayerson Distribution Center (Tennessee Avenue)
Giving Fields (Melbourne, KY)

Story in Pictures – July 2017

Mediaon August 3rd, 2017Comments Off on Story in Pictures – July 2017

July was a very busy month at the Freestore Foodbank.  Among other things, we launched a new workforce development program, opened a new mobile pantry at the VA Medical Center and packed our first Power Packs for the upcoming school year.

Lift the TriState Launch

On July 13, 2017 we officially launched LIFT THE TRISTATE our new, 12-week workforce development program which will be based out of our Distribution Center in Wilder, Kentucky. We appreciate support from our partners Belflex Staffing Network, Life Learning Center and Gateway Community and Technical College. LIFT the TriState will offer FREE job training in logistics, inventory management, facilities management and transportation. Thanks to Secretary Hal Heiner for joining us for the ceremony.

Senator Cecil Thomas visits and Class 161 of Cincinnati COOKS! graduates!

CONGRATULATIONS to Class 161 of Cincinnati COOKS! We are very proud of you. And special thanks to Ohio State Senator Cecil Thomas who joined us for the graduation ceremony.

LIFT the TriState classes begin

On July 24, 2017 classes officially started for LIFT THE TRISTATE, our new Workforce Development Program. LIFT THE TRISTATE is a FREE 12-week program that offers under and unemployed adults job training for employment in the warehousing and transportation industry. LIFT stands for Logistics, Inventory Management, Facilities Management and Transportation.

VA Pantry Opens

As a result of a new partnership between Feeding America and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, we launched a new mobile pantry this afternoon at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center. It gives us immense satisfaction to be able to distribute fresh fruits, vegetables and shelf-stable items to our veterans. Thank you to the Cincinnati VA Medical Center for working with us to make this possible. The mobile pantry is scheduled for August 24, September 22, October 26, November 22 and December 28 of this year from 2:30 to 4:30 pm.

First Power Packs get Packed

Summer is almost over! We just packed our first Power Packs for the upcoming school year. Power Packs are packs of food that the Freestore Foodbank sends home with kids on Fridays during the school year to ensure that they have something to eat over the weekend. We are especially thankful to Ohio National Financial Services for their help. Let us continue our fight to end childhood hunger!

A Sponsor with a Vision

Mediaon August 3rd, 2017Comments Off on A Sponsor with a Vision

A Sponsor with a Vision

Bill Dankworth grew up in a large family with eight children.  “There was always food on the table. However, there were plenty of times when it was far from abundant,” he remembers.  His early experiences in life made him passionate about fighting hunger. Bill believes that no one should go hungry, that food should be available to everyone in a consistent manner and that it should be healthy, clean and nutritious.

Bill’s relationship with the Freestore Foodbank started nearly 40 years ago. While working at Kroger in the early 80’s, his department got involved in the first “food reclamation programs” that the Freestore Foodbank embarked upon.  As years passed and the Freestore Foodbank grew, Bill continued to stay involved.  Although his job at Kroger forced him to relocate to other cities in the Midwest he supported foodbanks wherever he lived. In Indianapolis he volunteered at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana and when he moved to Michigan he joined the Board of Directors at Detroit Food Bank.

In 2002 Bill returned to Cincinnati. Within a few months he was invited to join the Board of Trustees at the Freestore Foodbank.  He served on the Board for 12 years. In 2004 the late Bob Edwards, who started the Rubber Duck Regatta for the Freestore Foodbank asked Bill to get involved in the event on behalf of Kroger. Since then, he has continued to support the fundraiser in various capacities, keeping up his efforts even after officially retiring from Kroger five years ago.

A Sponsor with a VisionBill currently serves on the Rubber Duck Regatta Steering Committee, working hard with sponsors and community partners to make the campaign more efficient and effective. Most recently, he helped forge an alliance between two marketing giants, Advantage Solutions and Acosta Sales and Marketing to benefit the regatta. Advantage and Acosta are fierce rivals who vie with each other for business with Kroger. However, under Bill’s stewardship they decided to collaborate to benefit the community and strengthen the fight against hunger. Thanks to this alliance, they will together contribute $200,000 to the Rubber Duck Regatta this year. “This was not an easy move for either one of the companies,” Bill observes. “However, they put their differences aside and united behind this cause because they knew that together they could make a greater impact than if they were to do it alone.” Bill is proud of his contribution, and Freestore Foodbank is extremely grateful for his support.

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the World

Mediaon August 3rd, 2017Comments Off on When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the World

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldThe little seven-year-old sported a wrinkled shirt, stained shorts, worn sneakers and dirty socks. His brown hair was tussled. The blue and orange stains on his hands told me he’d been coloring. His eyes filled with tears and his lips quivered as he whispered, “I just want some chocolate pudding.” Cathy Pedro knelt down, looked him in the eye and nodded in total understanding. “I think we can make that happen, Jimmy,” she said matter-of-factly. After rummaging around in the back closet, Cathy reemerged holding a brown paper bag. It was a Power Pack, the pack of food that the Freestore Foodbank sends home with students so they have something to eat over the weekend. “I checked and this one has chocolate pudding in it,” Cathy said as she placed the bag gently in the little boy’s arms. “You will love it.”  Jimmy hugged the bag to his chest like a prized treasure. The next time Cathy went grocery shopping she remembered to pick up a pack of Hershey’s chocolate pudding for Jimmy.

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldCathy Pedro is the Family Resource Center Coordinator at Ludlow Independent Schools in Northern Kentucky. Small and daintily built, her delicate appearance belies her fortitude of spirit and kindness of heart. Cathy has worked in the school district for 25 years. Her primary job is to address issues other than academic challenges that might impair a child’s ability to succeed such as hunger, poverty or domestic discord.  With 70% of students on the free or reduced lunch program and more than a quarter getting free breakfast, Cathy has her hands full at Ludlow.

As I walk down the hallway, I see that summer has transformed the school – desks and chairs are stacked to the ceiling, custodians shuffle down the hallway with keys jingling from their hips and maintenance folks teeter on ladders everywhere. It’s the middle of July and school is out.  Summer is officially here. Efforts are underway to clean from top to bottom, fix anything that is broken and catch up on stuff that did not get done during the year.  Tucked away in the back of the school, removed from the disarray, is a small cheerful room with bright red cabinets and spotlessly clean countertops. This is the Ludlow School Pantry  – Freestore Foodbank’s pilot project that makes food available to low-income families on school campuses in order to give them direct access to fresh and nutritious food.

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldLudlow School Pantry opened its doors in November 2016.  The pantry carries fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen meat, bread, shelf-stable items and personal hygiene products – all supplied by the Freestore Foodbank.  The school pantry has been a real blessing to the families. “It is not easy for individuals whether they are adults or children to ask for help,” Cathy comments. “Students avoid it in general. Some of them stop coming after a couple visits because they feel embarrassed. Many parents come to the pantry without letting their kids know. Parents work with one another and try to keep it a secret,” Cathy adds.

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldLisa Edwards is a single mother on disability.  Lisa has twin boys who will be sophomores at Ludlow High School this year. Like other teenagers, the twins are constantly hungry. “We go through boxes and boxes of cereal and many jars of peanut butter,” Lisa remarks. “When you are on a limited budget, it is not possible to always have nutritious food available. I truly appreciate the help I get from the school pantry. It allows me to offer my boys meat and pasta which I would not be able to afford on my own.”

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldLisa gets easy recipes from the school pantry and she also trades recipes with the other parents who visit. “I plan my meals according to what I can find at the pantry. If I can get cream of chicken soup, pasta and canned tuna from the pantry, I make tuna casserole that week,” she says. Little things make a huge difference. She points to the bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup in her hand and says, “My boys absolutely love vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup on it. In their eyes, that is the ultimate dessert. I am so thankful to have this support.” =

When Chocolate Pudding makes all the Difference in the WorldChildhood hunger is a very real issue in America. Kids who don’t get enough to eat do poorly in school and have a hard time focusing. Power Packs ensure that children have access to food during the weekend. During the summer months when school is out kids suffer in the absence of school breakfast and lunch programs. School pantries ensure that low-income families have direct access to nutritious foods.  The Freestore Foodbank currently operates 15 school pantries in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. To support Freestore Foodbank’s efforts to end childhood hunger go to

Feeding Children is our Priority

Mediaon August 3rd, 2017Comments Off on Feeding Children is our Priority

Feeding Children is our Priority

My car winds down a shaded road running parallel to the Ohio River as I approach the small picturesque town of Warsaw, Kentucky. Laura is waiting to meet me at the local coffee shop. She is lovely, with a soft voice and long brown hair that frames her face. We get chocolate chip muffins and iced tea and sit down in a corner to chat.

Laura moved to Kentucky eight years ago when her husband, Brian got a job as a meat-cutter at the local grocery store. She has five children between the ages of 19 months and 20 years.  Laura also suffers from a rare neuromuscular disorder that makes life challenging at times. The young family moved into a little house in the country where they struggled to make ends meet. It was nearly impossible to pay the rent, get the medicines Laura needed and purchase nutritious food for the family on a single income. Just when they thought life could not get any harder for them, it did. They were evicted from their tiny home and forced to move into a trailer. Laura and Brian were faced with the ugly reality of raising five children in an even smaller space.

Amidst her hardships, Laura despaired most about her inability to provide nutritious meals to her children. Mealtime became an occasion for anxiety and stress. “It’s difficult to plan meals that work for the entire family when you are on a limited budget. My children are at very different ages and have different needs and tastes. I just could not offer them what they needed to help them grow,” she says. Laura turned to the local food pantry for assistance. Gallatin County Food Pantry Inc., a trusted partner of the Freestore Foodbank was located only a few miles from her. The pantry supplied fresh produce as well as protein to supplement the items that Laura purchased from the grocery store. In addition, her children started receiving Power Packs from the local Family Resource Center, also serviced by the Freestore Foodbank. Power Packs are pre-packaged packs of food that are sent home with children over the weekend to make sure they have something to eat. “Power Packs helped because my children felt good about getting them and they offered a variety of nutritious and tasty meal options for the weekend,” Laura says.

Everything began to fall in place as soon as the family’s need for food was met.  “I felt that I could sleep better once I knew there would be enough food to put on the table the next day and that my children would not go to bed hungry,” Laura says. The support from the pantry gave Laura and Brian a chance to focus on solving some of the bigger issues. “We learned to make good choices. We consciously decided to pay the bills first before doing anything else,” Laura comments. Slowly they began to climb out of debt. As their financial life stabilized, Laura decided to go back to school.  She signed up for online classes and to train for a medical assistant degree. In a few months they were able to rent a house.

As her life stabilized, Laura’s children began to thrive. The continued help and support from Gallatin County Food Pantry alleviated their struggle. Laura shifted her attention to others around her who needed similar help. “When you live in a small town, people want to take care of one another,” she says. She volunteers regularly at Gallatin County Food Pantry. Laura is proud of her accomplishments and hopes to continue to help others while helping herself. “We could not have become stable without the help of the Freestore Foodbank,” Laura says. “Once we took care of providing food to everyone, we were able to focus on paying our bills and raising our children.” Laura is one of thousands of individuals who receive help from the Freestore Foodbank in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. To support us go to

Story in Pictures July 2017

Mediaon June 27th, 2017Comments Off on Story in Pictures July 2017

June is a busy and productive month with lots to do on the farm,  thousands of summer boxes to be packed in our distribution center and many dedicated volunteers to help with all of it. We also hosted Taste of the NFL which was a phenomenal success.  Here are some of the most memorable moments in pictures.

A Busy Day on the Farm!
June marks the beginning of the summer and it’s been a busy few weeks at The Giving Fields.  We sincerely appreciate the hundreds of volunteers who helped us get the farm up and running. We are delighted to share a few pictures of our  fresh crop of fruits and vegetables and excited to be able to deliver fresh produce farm-to-table to our customers in Kentucky.

Summer Meal Program
Summer is a difficult time for many Ohio families because of the absence of school lunch and breakfast programs. Thanks to our many dedicated volunteers including Board Members who helped to pack hundreds of summer meals for kids in our community!

Taste of the NFL
Thanks to everyone who joined us on Wednesday June 14 for the Cincinnati Bengals’ 15th Annual Taste of the NFL presented by TriHealth. Here are a few pictures of the event.

The Volunteer Connection July 2017

Mediaon June 27th, 2017Comments Off on The Volunteer Connection July 2017

Hannah Roberto, Healthy Harvest Mobile Market Volunteer


Hannah Roberto, Healthy Harvest Mobile Market Volunteer

While many college students spend time hanging out with friends and having fun during summer break, Healthy Harvest Mobile Market volunteer Hannah Roberto enjoys spending her time assisting families at the market. As a fourth year student majoring in Dietetics at the University of Cincinnati, Hannah has decided to align her passion for food education with the Freestore Foodbank’s mission to create stability while providing food and other forms of support to individuals and families.

In October 2016, Hannah began an incredible journey with Nick Reynolds and Jessie Fossenkemper, Freestore Foodbank’s Healthy Harvest Mobile Market staff to set up the market. Before she knew it she was assisting to clean the area, organize produce and process customer orders. Hannah says, “Every day is special. It’s really great to see how happy people are when they come to the market for the first time. Families are so grateful to have access to fresh produce in their neighborhood. It’s nice to see how welcome we are in the service that we provide.”

She believes that fruit is nature’s candy and truly enjoys passing out recipe cards during the customer checkout experience. Hannah regularly finds herself educating clients on food and takes joy in providing one-on-one food preparation advice to families. She has noticed that many individuals come back to share their experiences with her and that gives her a lot of satisfaction. As a Cincinnati native, Hannah openly expresses her appreciation for the Freestore Foodbank’s mission to end hunger and admires the organization for offering “so many ways to help the public – from packing Power Packs to offering fresh groceries via the Healthy Harvest Mobile Market.”  She wishes the Freestore Foodbank continued success in the years to come.

Thank you Taste of the NFL volunteers!
Duck Season is just Around the Corner!
Check Out These Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities
Ongoing Opportunities
Other Ways You Can Help


Thank you to the following groups for your support June 2017!
We sincerely appreciate their continued support and contribution of their time.

Mayerson Distribution Center (Tennessee Avenue)
Giving Fields (Melbourne, KY)
Food Room (Liberty Street)

John Heuer: Making a Difference Forever

Mediaon June 27th, 2017Comments Off on John Heuer: Making a Difference Forever

John Heuer first got involved with the Freestore Foodbank 15 years ago when the late Bob Edwards, founder and former chair of the Rubber Duck Regatta invited John to serve on his committee.  John gladly accepted the invitation.  “My belief is that people should have their basic needs met: food, shelter and clothing. Not having that is a horrible thing. That is one of the reasons I support the Freestore Foodbank.”

“If you care about hunger and what that means, you will understand what the Freestore Foodbank does for our community. “ John recalls volunteering with his team from Heinz to load rubber ducks into tractor trailers for their trip to the river for the annual Regatta. It was a sweltering summer day and it was a lot of hard work. But the team had an absolutely wonderful time and asked if they could participate every year thereafter.  “I am blown away by the passion every team member brings to the Rubber Duck Regatta Executive Committee. I am equally impressed by how dedicated each employee is to the mission of the Freestore Foodbank.”

John’s experience as a volunteer led him to get involved in other aspects of the Freestore Foodbank’s work. John hosted a Chef’s Table dinner prepared by Cincinnati COOKS! Second Course advanced students as part of their training. During the event these Cincinnati COOKS! Students spoke with John’s guests about what brought them to the program. “It was remarkable to hear the stories. There was not a dry eye in the place,” he says.

John and his wife Debbie have supported the Freestore Foodbank for more than ten years and a few years ago decided to make the organization part of their estate plans. They are dedicated not only to helping meeting immediate needs, but also ensuring that the Freestore Foodbank can continue fighting hunger and poverty for years to come.

Fresh Produce: Making a Healthy Difference

Mediaon June 27th, 2017Comments Off on Fresh Produce: Making a Healthy Difference

As dusk approached, a distant clock chimed the hour.  It was 6:00 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon in June in the little river-side town of Newport, Kentucky.  The setting sun’s rays reflected brightly off the Ohio River and music floated in the air from nearby restaurants.  Children danced on the streets and couples strolled by as they made their way toward the levee. My eyes took in the scene, as I hurried towards the gray stone church tucked away on a side street with its exquisite steeple and bright red door.   I spotted a short line of people steadily entering the church through a side door and I knew I was in the right place. This was my first visit to St. Paul’s Pantry in Newport, Kentucky.

Gelene Morales came outside to meet me, a smile lighting up her entire face. “Welcome to our pantry,” she said simply as we entered the church and made our way downstairs to the food room in the basement.  I stood in a room lined with shelves that were stocked with cans of vegetables, soup, beans and boxes of pasta, rice and bread.  As I looked around my gaze fell on the impressive collection of vegetables in the middle of the room. There were tomatoes, onions, peppers, potatoes, carrots, squash and Swiss chard all neatly packed into crates or packaged into Ziploc bags for easy pick-up.  Following my gaze, Gelene explained, “We love the fruits and vegetables that we pick up from Freestore Foodbank’s Distribution Center in Wilder, Kentucky. Our clients are so appreciative.”

St. Paul’s Pantry opened its doors in April 2009. It was not long, before they became a partner agency to the Freestore Foodbank. Today it is the main outreach ministry of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The pantry serves about 50 families per week and is open every Wednesday afternoon and on the second Saturday of every month.  In 2014 Gelene Morales went on a mission trip to Haiti with a member of St. Paul’s church. That was when she heard about the pantry and the need for helpers. A few months after  returning from Haiti, Gelene started volunteering at the church. Initially she stocked the shelves, but eventually started taking care of all the purchasing for the pantry.

“This has been a hugely rewarding experience,” Gelene comments. “Initially I used to pick up a lot of non-perishable items such as canned vegetables, beans and pasta and tons of baked goods.  However, the focus shifted recently and we have been getting a lot more fresh produce.” Gelene, who is a parent herself, tries to pay close attention to nutrition and healthy living. She makes it a point to avoid getting processed meats and sugary baked goods, focusing instead on increasing the selection of fresh vegetables and fruits available to her clients. “I sometimes pick up endive or kale which is relatively new and unfamiliar to many of our clients. However, I try to make some of these lesser known items available to them once in a while so that they can be exposed to new foods, ” she  explains. She is passionate about promoting healthy and nutritious foods and encouraging clients to try new and exotic  produce.  Recently the pantry came up with an innovative idea to exchange donated bread for fresh eggs at a local poultry farm (where it would be used to feed the rabbits and chickens).  Gelene and her partners at St. Paul’s Pantry are grateful to the Freestore Foodbank for offering a wide selection of fresh produce.

The Freestore Foodbank’s strategic plan includes improving access to healthy and nutritious food for clients. The goal is to increase produce distribution 25% over the last year to 6.2M lbs. “The recent surge in our supply of fresh produce can be attributed to the support of generous donors such as Castellini, Meijer, Kroger, Sam’s Club and Fresh Thyme,” says Randy Miller, Strategic Product Sourcing Manager, Freestore Foodbank.  The Castellini Group alone has donated close to half a million pounds of produce within the last fiscal year.  There is also an effort to decrease the lead time between the receiving and distribution of produce. The opening of the Wilder Distribution Center has helped to improve access to fresh produce for clients in Kentucky.  In addition, the Freestore Foodbank has recently become part of a special purchasing program through Feeding America that decreases the cost of produce and offers a wider selection.

“Research shows that increasing our intake of fresh fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of many chronic diseases including cancer. Fresh produce is also lower in calories and helps in the fight against obesity among adults and children. Our goal is to increase access to fresh, nutritious food and we are always thinking of new ways to offer our clients healthy meals,” Randy adds.

Benefits with Perks

Mediaon June 27th, 2017Comments Off on Benefits with Perks

Bob Grimes had worked for the local fire department in Bethel, Ohio since he was 22 years old. He loved his job and told everyone he wanted to be a fire-fighter until the day he died.  However, in April 2017 he suffered a massive heart attack and stroke. The doctors told him he might never walk again, let alone work as a fire fighter.  As he lay in his hospital bed, Bob panicked thinking about his family. He had six children and one grandchild in his care. His oldest child was 19, the youngest was six and the grandbaby was nine months old. Bob had always been the primary breadwinner. His wife who had a chronic back problem had never worked.  As weeks passed, it became obvious that they would have to make some changes since they were struggling to make ends meet.  They moved in with his mother-in-law since they could not afford house payments any more. His wife and his oldest daughter found themselves small seasonal jobs.  One of Bob’s biggest concerns was being able to put food on the table every day.  Healthy and nutritious foods can be expensive when one has a large family.

It was at this juncture that Bob contacted the Benefit Call Center at the Freestore Foodbank to ask about applying to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). “The whole process took a little over a week. The staff at the Freestore Foodbank not only helped me with SNAP, but also gave me suggestions about how to get my life back on track. What I appreciated most was that they were professional, courteous and understanding,” Bob comments.  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program alleviated Bob’s concern about whether he would be able to pay his grocery bill. It also helped him provide wholesome, nutritious meals to his family. “I hate being disabled and unemployed. It breaks my heart that my wife had to start working in my place.  But thanks to the support given by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program I don’t worry anymore about whether my family is staying nourished. I am so grateful for that support,” he comments. The Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that Bob gets as a part of the Supplemental Nutrition Program allows him to shop just like anyone else. He especially loves the Produce Perks that come with using the EBT card. Produce Perks are incentive tokens given to customers who use the EBT card to shop at participating farmers markets and they offer a dollar-for-dollar match up to $10 spent at the market. “The Produce Perks make it possible for me to stretch my dollar at the grocery store. I don’t think I would be able to keep my family nourished without this additional benefit,” Bob remarks.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program. Close to 70% of the participants of this program are families like Bob’s with children. More than a quarter consists of households with seniors or people with disabilities. Second to unemployment insurance, SNAP is the most responsive federal program providing additional assistance during economic crises such as when an individual is laid off, injured or disabled. It provides vital nutritional support for low-wage working families to ensure that nutritious meals are available to everyone. “It is important to note that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is truly supplemental. It is meant to help individuals and families who have a hard time making ends meet. Many of them are working multiple jobs that pay minimum wage. This program is truly a supplement that helps us take care of people,” says Kam McKenzie, Senior Coordinator of the Benefit Call Center.

The Freestore Foodbank opened the Benefit Call Center in order to provide more efficient support to clients. The Benefit Call Center of the Freestore Foodbank, located at the Customer Connection Center on Liberty Street, operates from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm Monday – Friday.  Benefit Enrollment Specialists who work in the Call Center perform several functions. They answer the phone and help individuals and families sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  They also help clients take advantage of other critical services offered by the Freestore Foodbank such assistance with rent and utilities as well as referrals to other agencies for housing, hot meals and furniture . In addition, some of the Benefit Enrollment Specialists spend time in other locations as a resource – answering questions and helping clients sign up for assistance.

An average call to the Benefit Call Center takes about ten minutes.  The Freestore Foodbank specialists then submit all required documentation to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The applicants go through an extremely thorough verification process before they are approved for assistance – submitting identification information for themselves and family members and pay stubs if they hold jobs. It takes about a week for the application to get processed.

The Benefit Call Center at the Freestore Foodbank receives close to 500 calls per month. Kam and her staff work diligently to provide prompt service to her clients and also to preserve their dignity and privacy. “We care about the nutrition and overall wellness of low-income families and individuals in this country. We also want to make sure they feel comfortable and that they are treated with dignity and respect throughout the process,” Kam remarks. To learn more click on or for assistance call (513) 381-SNAP(7627)