Ohio food banks dish out healthier foods

Posted at 6:00 AM, May 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-15 08:08:01-04

Green beans, carrots, fresh tomatoes — All probably sound like the ingredients for a good vegetarian dish, but they are also key to a balanced diet.

The reality is, many of our neighbors in the community are not getting those key nutrients.

But that's been changing recently, thanks to one local organization.

It’s not your ordinary market.

“This is much much needed," resident Joyce Johnson tells News 5.

RELATED: Local food banks and pantries speak out against food stamp photo ID cards

It's a free market inside the St. Clair Place Senior Center Apartments, with fresh foods, all donated by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. 

“There's no grocery store around here, so you have to go to Dave's or Save-A-Lot and that's a long ways from downtown," Johnson said.

That is exactly why food banks across the country and here in Northeast Ohio are shifting from handing out less boxed and processed foods, to fresher and healthier ones.

“We are working with Ohio farmers to save produce that might otherwise go to waste and get it out to families in Ohio who really need it," said Kristin Warzocha, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Rows of wall-to-wall fresh foods like bananas, greens, and corn take up more space in the Greater Cleveland Food Bank warehouse now more than ever before.

Last year alone, they distributed more than 18 million pounds of free fresh produce.

“We need to make sure that we can get it out with our partners to the clients who really need it and do so quickly," said Warzocha.

Having access to healthier options as she ages is why Johnson said she's always one of the first in line when the market comes each month.

“We need it for our bodies, our bodies are lacking iron, and calcium, we need all these things," she said.

Since their goal is to provide produce in bulk, food bank leaders say donating money toward buying produce is the best way you can pitch in, and keep the healthy initiative going.

The Ohio Foods Program allows the food bank to provide fresh fruits and veggies, but it’s currently slated for cuts in the new state budget, that's already passed the State House.

If that budget goes into effect, close to half a million dollars could be gone. The food bank is working with the State Senate to try to save that money.

How can you help?

The food bank's most needed food items include:

  • Canned soup
  • Canned vegetables
  • Tuna fish
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned beef stew
  • Cereal

Learn more about donating here.