Umesh and Katina met while stationed in Hawaii. They married and transferred to Georgia where, after leaving the Army, Katina worked for the United Way. Through her work, Katina and Umesh learned about their local food bank, America’s Second Harvest. The couple became familiar with that organization and the work of food banks.

“When we came to Cincinnati we looked for a similar organization and found the Freestore Foodbank,” said Katina.

The couple made donations to support the work of the Freestore Foodbank and as their children grew up, began volunteering as a family.

“The Giving Fields is not far from us and it is a good opportunity to teach the kids about helping people have access to healthy foods. They also learn about the process from planting seeds to harvesting. It reinforces our belief that fresh food is valuable and special.”

Umesh, Katina, Deven, Maya and Asha volunteer during each phase of the Giving Fields season – planting cucumbers, weeding beds, pruning tomato plants, and harvesting beans and onions.

“The kids really like it; our oldest loved driving the gator and collecting weeds.”

Katina has also engaged her children’s friends and their families in volunteer opportunities at the Freestore Foodbank. She has scheduled shifts at the farm and recruited her daughter’s Girl Scout troop to volunteer.

“It’s an easy sell. The parents are always enthusiastic about volunteer opportunities and community service is greatly valued at all the organizations where our kids are involved.”

In addition to spending time at the Giving Fields, the family has also volunteered at other locations of the Freestore Foodbank by assembling Power Packs and bringing along more friends for that experience. Both the Giving Fields and Power Pack programs depend entirely on volunteers to provide healthy options as part of food assistance for hungry regional children and families.

Katina and her son also came to a Cincinnati COOKS! graduation to learn more about Freestore Foodbank’s workforce development programs that reduce the number of tristate families needing emergency food assistance.

“There are different ways to give. And over time, these experiences leave a lasting impression in our kids.”

The family is planning their volunteering schedule for the 2018 farm season and hoping to attend another COOKS! graduation soon. Umesh and Katina also continue to support Freestore Foodbank’s Second Helping Fund, which provides matching gifts for Double Your Dollars Day and other special fundraising campaigns.

To support The Giving Fields click here.