Snowflakes pelted down silently as Tracy visited the Freestore Foodbank that December morning. It was the day before Christmas Eve. In the back of her car was a Holiday Box from the Freestore Foodbank filled with treasured supplies for a holiday feast . Turkey, stuffing, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls of bread and apples – essentials for cooking a decent holiday meal for herself and her three children. As a single mom who worked a part-time job, Tracy was used to making do with whatever she had – always putting her children’s needs above her own, and not taking anything for granted. Luxuries were non-existent and comforts were rare in her life. If she was lucky she would be able to pick up some brownies from the discounted items at the grocery store for dessert.

Times were hard and Tracy had learned to be creative. Her concern was always to keep her children happy and healthy on a limited income and it was more about them during the holidays than about her. Back at home, surrounded by squealing kids and a baby on her hip, she started to unpack her Holiday Box. A colorful piece of paper at the bottom of the box caught her eye. As she pulled it out, she realized it was a flyer from the Cincinnati Zoo. She scanned it with little interest. Most of the time fun destinations like the zoo or the museum were out of her reach. But as she read further, she tingled with excitement. The zoo was offering a special deal! They were announcing discounts for families on SNAP. All she needed was her ID and EBT card! She showed her children the card and told them this would be a Christmas treat. They would go to the zoo together as soon as the weather got a little warmer.

In early spring, Tracy went to the zoo with her children. “This was the best treat that anyone ever gave my kids in a long time!” Tracy declared. “My children had never seen real giraffes or monkeys or lions and when I saw the wonder on their faces, it made me cry! I thank the Cincinnati Zoo and the Freestore Foodbank for working together to make this a reality for families on a tight budget.”

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s “Zoo Access for All” program is designed to encourage families and individuals of all backgrounds to visit the zoo and build lifelong and multi-generational memories. In addition to special offers for SNAP recipients, the Zoo has recently increased access to visitors with disabilities, as well as to those who speak languages other than English. The Zoo is partnering with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) to train a majority of its full time, seasonal and volunteer staff to better assist individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to more deeply engage at the Zoo. A specially-designed map will be available in the coming months for guests that bring their trained service animals. “We’re off to a great start,” says Rhiannon Hoeweler, Cincinnati Zoo’s Vice President of Visitor Engagement and head of the Zoo Access for All program. “Discounted admission and memberships are available to visitors with SNAP cards, the service animal program is in place and staff members are now training with our neighbors at CCHMC. We’re excited to make the Zoo accessible to all.”

The Freestore Foodbank greatly appreciates the Zoo’s effort to make itself more accessible to those who struggle with hunger and poverty. “We value the opportunity to partner with the Cincinnati Zoo and this is a wonderful example of how that partnership is working to benefit the families that we serve,” adds Kurt Reiber, President & CEO Freestore Foodbank.

To support the Freestore Foodbank’s efforts to end hunger and stabilize lives, go to

Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals