Mid-Ohio Foodbank (MOF) has been providing hunger relief to central Ohio families since 1980. They partner with over 650 agencies in a twenty-county service region in central and eastern Ohio to provide hunger relief to hundreds of thousands of Ohioans every year. MOF is committed to becoming a learning institution and to continually improving its service model. To that end, MOF is seeking to better understand and meet their clients where they are. MOF recognizes the value of collective impact and is seeking community partners who share the vision of ending hunger one nourishing meal at a time and co-creating sustainable communities where everyone thrives.
The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University (Kirwan) is an applied research institute whose mission is to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed. Kirwan and MOF have embarked upon this co-learning experience to help inform MOF’s client-centricity model by placing food insecurity in the broader context of poverty and vulnerability, by identifying barriers to agency collaboration, and by highlighting voices from clients.
MOF understands that ending hunger requires broad systemic collaborations and policy conversations with stakeholders outside of the hunger relief network, particularly around the changing nature and growth of poverty. For example, focus group participants reported that the loss in government benefits that occurs when they find work is actually greater than the gain in earnings; therefore, working is actually structurally disincentivized. Their lived experiences are reflected in recent data that show that roughly half of single female-headed households with part-time work are in poverty. As another example, focus group participants noted that SNAP benefits provide many seniors with roughly sixteen dollars a month in assistance, barely enough to buy milk and eggs each week. Focus group participants shared the psychological stress of being unable to fully provide for oneself and one’s family, yet displayed resilience, perseverance, and connection with other focus group members for support.