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Story in Pictures – January 2018

Mediaon January 11th, 2018Comments Off on Story in Pictures – January 2018

December is perhaps one of the busiest months for the Freestore Foodbank.  The holidays present a unique set of challenges for our neighbors as they battle the harsh winter weather while struggling to pay their bills, stay warm and serve wholesome meals to their families – all while trying to get in the spirit of the season. This is the time when we work doubly hard to make nourishing meals available to families in the tristate region while also providing other critical services. We are thankful to our many volunteers and donors who made time to make the holiday season a success. Below are a few pics that capture the highlights.

We would like to say thank you to every generous donor and volunteer who supported our 2017 ADOPT- A – FAMILY campaign. Because of your generosity, close to 130 families we serve in the tristate region received beautifully wrapped presents for every member of the household. Thank you Cincinnati for your kindness and compassion this holiday season!

December Holiday Distribution
Our 3-day Holiday Food distribution was a resounding success. Over the span of three incredible days we delivered food to over 14,000 individuals in the tristate region. We are extremely grateful for the help and support of over 1,000 volunteers who gave generously of their time and energy to make this event a success.

Volunteer Connection – January 2018

Mediaon January 11th, 2018Comments Off on Volunteer Connection – January 2018

Happy New Year from the Volunteer Engagement Team!

In 2017, more than 10,000 volunteers shared their time and talents with us helping us make a lasting impact on the community.  As one of our greatest resources, volunteers make our work possible. The Freestore Foodbank’s  Volunteer Engagement Team wishes our volunteers a very prosperous and healthy new year and we look forward to seeing you in 2018! Together, We Can Solve Hunger!

Holiday Food Distributions
Our annual Christmas Food Distribution made a huge impact, thanks to the support of our staff and volunteers. We provided food for a Christmas meal to help more than 14,000 individuals over the course of two and half days. 1,055 volunteers donated 3,383 hours of their time – a true gift this holiday season. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas Food Distribution Operations, with the support of 2,100 volunteers, we were able to help nearly 35,000 individuals receive holiday meals.

Adopt –A – Family
Ninety-six families received holiday gifts this year through our Adopt-a-Family program. Thanks to the volunteers and donors who helped to make this possible. Thank you to volunteer, Susan Ede, and her team for bringing a special joy to these families this year.  Especial thanks to the Tata Consultancy Services Limited volunteer team for being Santa’s helpers and distributing gifts.

A Sneak Peek at 2018 Volunteer Opportunities
Individuals may self-register and groups may request special dates by visiting our website:  Email our Volunteer Engagement Specialist, Carolyn Frank at or call 513-482-7550 for further assistance.

Special Events
Mayerson Distribution Center
The Giving Fields
Food Room
Group and Individual Volunteer Opportunities
Other Ways to Help

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

Mayerson Distribution Center (Tennessee Avenue)
Food Room (Liberty Street)
Christmas Holiday Operations (Liberty Street)

“I am happiest when I am able to help others!”

Mediaon January 10th, 2018Comments Off on “I am happiest when I am able to help others!”

Greg Peters has been a Full Plate Partner monthly supporter of the Freestore Foodbank for the last few years. “The mission of the Freestore Foodbank is important to me. I don’t think that anyone should go hungry. The fact that they help the poor and less fortunate pulls at my heartstrings,” Greg remarks. He first saw the Freestore Foodbank’s outreach efforts on the news during the holidays and decided to get involved. “Life is tough. I am happiest when I am able to help others,” Greg states.

Born and raised in Ohio, Greg owns a deck restoration business in Cincinnati. As a business owner, Greg appreciates the value of donating to the Freestore Foodbank, where each dollar secures three meals for hungry neighbors.  Every month Greg makes a donation through his company that benefits Freestore Foodbank. “The credibility of the organization is very important,” he says. “With the Freestore Foodbank, I don’t have to worry about where my money is going. I know it’s being put to very good use.”

Greg and our other Full Plate Partners are making a difference in the lives of others every month. Their year-round support allows us to offer assistance to families in need and provide the tools to build self-sufficiency and stability. Full Plate Partners may join us for monthly Cincinnati COOKS! “Lunch and Learns”, as well as our annual volunteer day.  In addition, monthly donors no longer receive solicitation letters, just semi-annual updates and quarterly newsletters about how your donations are being put to work. We also will not use paper and postage to send you a thank you letter every month; instead, we will send you one thank you letter each January, listing all the gifts you made the previous year.

You can become a Full Plate Partner at any level, and have the flexibility to change your donation amount at any time. To become a Full Plate Partner, click the Monthly Gift button on Freestore Foodbank’s website or contact Rachel Lampkin, our Donor Relations Officer, at 513.482.7090 or

Food as Medicine

Mediaon January 10th, 2018Comments Off on Food as Medicine

Joshua is a six-year-old first grader. He loves playing with Legos and trains.  He also loves basketball and baseball and likes to pretend to be a soldier. Stephanie Coffey, the Social Worker at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Hopple Street Neighborhood Health Center received a troubling message from Joshua’s school a few weeks ago asking for help.  His teachers had come to the decision that they were not going to be able to keep Joshua in school much longer due to severe behavioral issues. Not having the resources to provide counseling or therapy, the school was seeking assistance from the hospital.

Stephanie called the school to get further details. A conversation with Joshua’s teachers revealed that the main issue was that he became difficult to handle around 10:30 am every day. He became irritable, disruptive and sometimes violent. Although the incidents were predictable, the teachers did not know how to control them. Stephanie started investigating Joshua’s behavior. She studied his daily routine and schedule. It was a private school that did not offer free breakfast.  In that impoverished neighborhood, it was highly likely that Josh came to school hungry. And as a six-year-old, he probably did not know how to handle hunger, other than to act out. Stephanie felt that she may have stumbled on the root of the issue.

Stephanie’s years of experience dealing with children facing food insecurity had taught her that lack of adequate nutrition could lead to serious academic and behavioral issues. This seemed very likely in Joshua’s case.  Following further discussion with her colleagues at the clinic, Stephanie came up with a plan. They sent Joshua’s mom “snack packs” they had received from the Freestore Foodbank.  Josh started to get snacks mid-morning every day. Miraculously, the meltdowns disappeared. “In this instance, food took the place of medication,” comments Dr. Mary Carol Burkhardt, Medical Director of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Hopple Street Neighborhood Health Center. “The problem of childhood hunger is far more prevalent than it should be. And that is often the most common issue we address.”

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Hopple Street clinic is located in a food desert. In addition to the lack of direct access to fresh, nutritious food, the neighborhood boasts a high rate of unemployment and alarming infant mortality numbers. 70% of the patients who come to the clinic seek help for social issues such as malnourishment, domestic violence, abuse or neglect in addition to medical conditions. The medical staff at the clinic struggled for many years with the issue of food insecurity among patients. “It made us feel helpless to know that our patients struggled due to a lack of nutritious food. Not being able to help in a meaningful manner was frustrating and heartbreaking,” says Dr. Burkhardt.

This crisis was resolved in July 2017, with the help of the Bob Edwards Feed A Child Fund and the Freestore Foodbank. The hospital was able to start a pantry called the Rubber Duck Family Market in a tiny room within the Hopple Street Clinic. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital already had a preexisting relationship with the Freestore Foodbank through the KIND (Keeping Infants Nourished and Developing) program which makes formula available to children in food insecure families. The Rubber Duck Market took this relationship a step further. The pantry carries shelf-stable items such as pasta, soups, chili, peanut butter, cereal, etc. in addition to formula and diapers.

Stephanie requires every patient she meets with to complete a questionnaire called a “social screener”. The first two questions of the screener address the issue of food insecurity.  “It can be embarrassing or awkward for a patient to admit to food insecurity. However, I do it with kindness and gentleness, always reassuring them that I am here to help and not to pry. And most often, they will tell me if there is a problem,” Stephanie says.  She then offers them options including access to the little pantry that is located at the clinic. “Usually food helps to break down barriers. And they accept me as a friend and one who can help them.”

In addition to the Rubber Duck Market, the Freestore Foodbank operates a mobile pantry for fresh produce at the clinic every other week offering a wide variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, bread and baked goods to patients and local residents. “The clinic is located in a food desert. So the “produce mobile” hosted by the Freestore Foodbank offers a wonderful solution that improves access to fresh produce for the local residents as well as patients of the clinic,” Ann Viancourt, Child Hunger Prevention Coordinator at the Freestore Foodbank comments.

The Rubber Duck Family Market is the one of the first ones of its kind in the United States to be located within a medical facility. “The success and popularity of the pantry has opened our eyes to what can be accomplished if we continue to partner with the Freestore Foodbank and address some of the underlying issues around nutrition as well while providing medical help,” states Dr. Burkhardt.  Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is actively considering the possibility of implementing similar facilities in other clinics as well.

One in five children in the tristate region struggle with food insecurity, which means that they do not know where their next meal will come from. To learn more about the Freestore Foodbank’s efforts to fight childhood hunger click here.

The Joy of Cooking

Mediaon January 10th, 2018Comments Off on The Joy of Cooking

Cooking classes are exciting because they hold the promise of exquisite culinary creations and delicious, heartwarming meals.  They are happy events sprinkled with colorful mixing bowls, shiny steel utensils, cleverly nested measuring cups, nifty peelers and can-openers and featuring mystery recipes and ingredients. Cooking classes can be even more delightful when the students are elementary school students who run into the room, bright-eyed and eager, their minds filled with curiosity and excitement. They become doubly rewarding as these young people experiment with different flavors and textures, try new recipes and learn to prepare delicious, nourishing and budget-friendly meals for their families.

Carolyn Collette is a volunteer culinary instructor for La Soupe, a Cincinnati-based non-profit. She leads La Soupe’s “Cincinnati Gives a Crock” after-school cooking program, which is funded by Green Umbrella, an alliance that works towards environmental sustainability in the region. Carolyn was teaching a class recently when she noticed two little sisters in her class with exemplary knife skills.  When asked, the girls shared with pride that their mom was a chef! Carolyn later learned that the girls’ mom was Tammy McMillan, a recent graduate of Freestore Foodbank’s Cincinnati COOKS! program.

Carolyn and her husband, Mike Collette are long-time supporters of the Freestore Foodbank. Needless to say, Carolyn was delighted to hear about Cincinnati COOKS! in such an unlikely setting. Mike had served on the Board of Trustees of the Freestore Foodbank for many years, where he became closely involved with the development of the Cincinnati COOKS program. “We were captivated by the idea that this program could help individuals get back on their feet by teaching them valuable skills,” Carolyn remembers.

The Collettes took a personal interest in the program and started the tradition of hosting an annual  “Back to School” celebration in their home in late summer every year, catered by Cincinnati Cooks Catering. Their goal was two-fold: to see their friends before the end of the summer and to provide a safe environment for the graduates of  Cincinnati COOKS! to practice taking orders, serving hors d’ oeuvers and mixing drinks. It gave Carolyn great satisfaction to run into the daughters of a COOKS! graduate in her cooking class.

Tammy graduated from Class 162 of the Cincinnati COOKS! program. She hopes to join Second Course so that she can get some advanced skills before starting her our business.  “I used to work in a local transportation company because I did not have any skills,” Tammy states. “Being a part of the Cincinnati COOKS! program has widened my horizons. The program has given me focus and made me feel like I too can pursue my dream of a career like everyone else.”

Her daughters, Ree’Moni and Ar’Moni joined the La Soupe cooking class at Lockland Elementary School because their mom highly recommended it. “Being a trained chef and a recent graduate of the Cincinnati COOKS! program, I could not think of a more valuable skill set for them to pick up,” Tammy explained to me.  “We love every bit of it,” the girls say. “We enjoy being with all the other kids. But the most important thing is that we learn to cook on our own. We get to try preparing new dishes here and then we take them home and make it for our families. That is the best part.”

Cincinnati COOKS! is a free culinary job training program for under- and unemployed individuals. During the 10-week course, students learn the mechanics of a commercial kitchen, as well as professional and life skills to ensure success in the food service industry and in their personal lives. Since its inception in 2001, more than 1,500 individuals have graduated from the program. To learn more about Cincinnati COOKS! click here.

Around the World and Back!

Mediaon January 10th, 2018Comments Off on Around the World and Back!

What is it like to cook for the US Navy? A lot of hard work because you are planning and preparing meals for over a thousand sailors; lots of time to think when you are out at sea with little access to family or any form of entertainment; tons of friends because the crew and staff on board the ship become your family; thousands of decisions to make while working fast and serving a lot of people under circumstances that are often neither safe nor comfortable. Despite all the challenges, Walter loved his job. He was proud to serve in the US Navy. He took immense pleasure and satisfaction in bringing the comfort of delicious and nutritious meals to the bravest and most honorable men in the world.

Walter enjoyed adventure and loved sailing all over the world – from Long Beach to Oregon and from Oregon to Hawaii, to Philippines, Vietnam, Guam, Samoa, Australia and Tahiti. He loved meeting new people and experiencing different cultures, not to mention the joy of picking up new recipes along the way. Walter was a hard working young man who lived his life to the fullest.  He worked as a chef in the US Navy for eight years. In 1996 Walter completed his service and was discharged.

In 1997, shortly after returning home, Walter had an accident. His car drove off the road and into an embankment. The police arrived to find that Walter had suffered a seizure while driving.  Further investigation led to a diagnosis of frontal lobe epilepsy. Walter’s driver’s license was revoked and he was put on strong medication to control his illness. He had a very difficult time finding employment thereafter. He had Social Security which helped somewhat to pay the bills. But it was hardly enough to keep him going. Walter went to Life Learning Center in Northern Kentucky looking for assistance finding a job. It was there that he heard about Freestore Foodbank’s new program, LIFT the TriState. Walter joined the first class of the LIFT program in August 2016.  “The program gave me a second chance,” Walter says. “I had almost given up hope of ever finding a job.  LIFT taught me important skills that made me marketable.” LIFT the TriState is 10-week job training program started by the Freestore Foodbank in collaboration with Belflex Staffing Network and Gateway Technical and Community College in Logistics, Inventory and Facilities Management and Transportation.  During the course, Walter had visited Donna Salyers Fabulous-Furs, a local manufacturer of faux fur products.  As he got closer to graduation, Walter interviewed for a job there and was hired immediately.

Walter works at Fabulous-Furs in the warehouse. He breaks down cardboard, handles returns and packs items for shipping. “This job has given me a new life. I feel a new sense of self-worth. I have a little bit of extra money to be able to watch movies at home or get gifts for my mom who is ill. I am thankful to LIFT the TriState for what it did for me,” he comments.

Based in Northern Kentucky, LIFT the TriState is a unique program that provides hands-on training from experienced warehouse personnel at the Freestore Foodbank, specialized coursework designed by Gateway Community and Technical College, as well as links to local employment through Belflex Staffing Network and other program partners. To learn more about the program click here.

Volunteer Connection – December 2017

Mediaon December 7th, 2017Comments Off on Volunteer Connection – December 2017

Wishing All of Our AwesomeVolunteers a Very Happy  Holiday Season!

We have so much to be grateful for! We couldn’t fight hunger without our volunteers continued support, enthusiastic spirit and time! We had a whirlwind of events in November and because of our magnificent volunteers each event was a HUGE success!

December Happenings: 
Christmas Holiday Food Box Distribution
Come be the gift that helps us bring good cheer to some of the neighbors that we serve at our Customer Connection Center. We still have a few remaining spots to fill for the Christmas Holiday Box Distribution on December 20th, 21st, and 22nd.  If you would like to help us help our community to have a wonderful holiday, click here to sign up.  All volunteers must be at least 10 years old and all minors must be accompanied by an adult.

Amazing Opportunities Coming in 2018
Student Nights at the Mayerson Distribution Center
Helping Students Achieve Their Community Service Hours
Are you a student 16 years of age or older and in need of community service hours? Then we have an opportunity just for you!! Every Thursday beginning on January 11, 2017 until the end of the school year,  we’ll host a Student Night at the Distribution Center on Tennessee Avenue to give students the opportunity to earn those required community service hours! Tell your friends, bring them along and let’s have some fun while providing a great service to someone in need! Sign Up Now Reservations are needed and spaces are limited.

Group and Individual Volunteer Opportunities
Other Ways to Help

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

Mayerson Distribution Center (Tennessee Avenue)
Food Room (Liberty Street)
Special Event: Bengals Canned Food Drive
Special Event: Thanksgiving Holiday Food Box Distribution



Story In Pictures – December 2017

Mediaon December 7th, 2017Comments Off on Story In Pictures – December 2017

Academic-Community Research Partnership Award

The Freestore Foodbank in partnership with Hamilton County Community Action Agency received the Academic-Community Research Partnership Award from the Cincinnati Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training for our work distributing produce through our mobile pantry program. Congratulations to Lamont Taylor and Moxie John who helped develop the program!

Thanksgiving Food Distribution

Our 3-day THANKSGIVING FOOD DISTRIBUTION powered by Delta Airlines was a grand success. Over the span of three incredible days we distributed meals to over 6,500 households, which equates to slightly over 21,000 individuals. We are grateful for the help of our nearly 1,100 tireless volunteers who worked with us to make this a reality. Thank you Cincinnati for helping us make a difference in the lives of our neighbors!

Congratulations to Class 165 of Cincinnati COOKS! We are very proud of our graduates!

Cincinnati Bengals Canned Food Drive

Bengal fans donated 5,174 pounds of non-perishable food items and more than $20,000 in cash donations during Sunday’s 31st Annual Cincinnati Bengals Canned Food Drive. That equates to 64,311 meals for hungry children and families in the Tri-State area.

Susan Ede Brings Holiday Cheer to Hundreds

Mediaon December 7th, 2017Comments Off on Susan Ede Brings Holiday Cheer to Hundreds

“It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is a song that a lot of us are used to hearing when the month of December rolls around. And for many, the song rings true.  For lots of folks here in our region, it truly is a wonderful time of year as we plan, shop, cook and celebrate the holiday season with friends and family. But this isn’t the case for everyone.  For families who have fallen upon hard times resulting from a host of different reasons such as job loss, injury, illness or an unexpected expense, this time of year can be anything but wonderful.

This is where the Freestore Foodbank’s Adopt-A-Family Program, and volunteers like Susan Ede come in. In early December, Susan and her “volunteer- helpers” transform the third floor of the Freestore Foodbank’s Customer Connection Center into Gift-Central for many families in the Cincinnati area.  Serving about 130 families who are in shelters or part of our protective payee, direct rent and stabilization programs, the Adopt-A-Family-Program seeks to provide a memorable and rewarding holiday experience to every member of the household.

The process officially gets underway in August when families in our programs are asked to fill out wish lists of items that they would like for Christmas.  Starting around October, donors (private individuals and corporate groups) contact Susan and are supplied with lists from the adopted families to help guide them in picking up gifts.  Early in December, hundreds of these gifts are dropped off at the Customer Connection Center to be sorted, organized, and prepped for their final holiday destination. Susan and her crew make sure everything and everyone is accounted for from the mountains of dropped-off gifts.

About two weeks before Christmas, clients are invited to come in and pick up their family’s presents.  “It’s a little crazy,  but fun,” Susan says about her project, as she passes out children’s books and stuffed toys for the little ones along with household cleaning items, personal care products, gloves, scarfs, and much more for their parents.

Overall, for Susan and all of the volunteers and donors who participate, The Freestore Foodbank’s Adopt-A-Family-Program is a labor of love that is right in tune with this season of giving. If a few presents and a little care can help make this season a more wonderful time of year for a family that needs it, that just makes everyone’s holiday season a little bit brighter!

Whether you are an individual who is just looking to make a difference or a family, small civic group or corporation looking to give back in a very special way, there are plenty of ways that you can help with the Freestore Foodbank’s Adopt-A-Family-Program!

For questions or more information about how you can get involved with the Adopt-A-Family-Program, please email Susan at

A Family Affair

Mediaon December 7th, 2017Comments Off on A Family Affair

It was two days before Thanksgiving – the busiest time of the year for the Freestore Foodbank. Holiday food distribution was rapidly drawing to a close. The second floor of the Customer Connection Center was humming with activity. Volunteers steadily filed in and the room was quickly filling up. I hurried into the crowded room tugging my hat off and shaking my hair free. I looked around at the sea of faces, acutely aware of my wild hair, muddy boots and red, wind-burned cheeks. My eyes met the shy gaze of Suzanne Anderson as she stepped forward with her husband Jeff at her side, to shake my cold hands. As I gazed back at her, I was reassured by the kind eyes that smiled steadily back at me. As I smiled back I was struck by the gentleness and grace of my guests.  It didn’t matter that my boots were scuffed and my hair was wild. It was good to see them both and I was excited to hear about their connection to the Freestore Foodbank.

Jeff Anderson first got involved with the Freestore Foodbank over seven years ago. Jeff works for Procter and Gamble’s “professional group” that sells cleaning products to industrial customers such as restaurants, hotels and manufacturing plants and offers products, equipment, service and technical support to business customers. Since Procter and Gamble already had a close relationship with the Freestore Foodbank they started using Cincinnati COOKS! as a test kitchen. Jeff was asked to formalize the relationship. So he brought in products, equipment and ideas to engage the organization and began helping the program with cleaning and food safety.

Jeff was impressed by Cincinnati COOKS! “As I got to learn more about the program, I fell in love with it,” he remembers.  Jeff believes that Cincinnati COOKS! fulfills a very unique need in the community because of its mission to teach individuals critical skills. Jeff works closely with the chefs and students of the program. He visits Cincinnati COOKS! twice a week on behalf of Procter and Gamble. It is a mutually beneficial relationship because P&G is able to test their products and get feedback while Cincinnati COOKS! benefits from the constant inflow of new ideas, products and procedures.

Jeff personally supports Cincinnati COOKS! since he believes in the concept of giving individuals a “hand up” so they can become self-sufficient and independent.  He also serves on the COOKS! Committee along with some of the founding members such as Dick Rosenthal and Mike Kremzar. “I believe that Fred Diamond and Mike Kremzar who were the founders of Cincinnati COOKS! really made an effort to understand the issues and setbacks faced by individuals and worked to address them as best as they could. I am amazed by the program and all that it does to not only teach important culinary skills, but also give participants life skills that are required to make them into professionals,” Jeff observes.

Jeff’s wife, Suzanne who works for Ernst and Young was involved with the Freestore Foodbank even before they were married. She remembers coming to the warehouse to volunteer, mostly to assemble Power Packs. One year she organized the holiday food drive. Ernst and Young collected about 4,000 Mac and Cheese packs that year.  “We are very competitive and every store in the city was sold out of Mac and Cheese!” Suzanne remembers.

After they got married, the Freestore Foodbank became a “family affair”. Jeff never stops thinking about new ways to help Cincinnati COOKS! “We do not want participants to be forced to quit the program in order to make ends meet,” Jeff says. Fortunately, Cincinnati COOKS! students are provided support services such as uniforms, transportation, vouchers and childcare referrals as well as rent or utility assistance, when needed.

Suzanne supports his work by attending donor events and some of the COOKS! Cucina cooking classes. “Our experience has been extremely rewarding. It feels good to help an organization that is doing so much good for the community. I love the people who work there – the management, the chefs and the students. It is great to see what it does for them at a personal level – it is truly life-changing for almost all of them. The people you meet through the program open your eyes to the challenges they face.  It makes you realize how fortunate you are. I admire the vision of the people who started this and I appreciate what they did. It is very inspiring,” Suzanne comments.

Jeff and Suzanne have one five-year-old son, Carter. They are grateful for the opportunity to serve the community and to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors.  To donate to the Freestore Foodbank, click here.