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Greater Cleveland Food Bank helping families fight hunger, in need of monetary donations

Posted at 5:00 AM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 10:40:33-05

One in five children in northeast Ohio is food insecure, meaning they're not sure where their next meal is coming from. But the Greater Cleveland Food Bank is helping, and so can you by calling into our phone bank Friday afternoon.

From 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., you can call our Food Bank Phone Bank at either 216-431-3805 locally or toll-free at 1-800-658-5370 to pledge a donation.

Around this time of year, folks turn to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank partner programs more than 400,000 times to help feed their families.

"It's pretty staggering to think that there are that many people in need,” said Karen Pozna, the Director of Communications at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

There are more than 1,000 of those programs from pantries, to hot meal programs, to programs for seniors and kids.

"A lot of them are seeing more working families, people who have jobs, a lot of them have two to three jobs and they're trying to make ends meet,” Pozna said.

One of those is the Euclid Hunger Center. Euclid residents living at 200% below the poverty line or more can go there once a month to get food for their families.

About 70% of its supply comes from the food bank.

"They don't just try to feed people, they try to help them get out of the situation that led them to need food in the first place,” said Kay O'Donnell, the manager of the Euclid Hunger Center.

And the food bank is making an effort to make sure even more people get nutritious foods. Two-thirds of its output are foods like fresh fruits and veggies, protein, and dairy – and monetary donations make a huge difference.

"For every dollar donated we can help provide enough food for four nutritious meals.,” Pozna said.

Food bank helping families get back on their feet with Household Empowerment Program

Even though the Euclid Hunger Center’s services are only designated for city residents, no one is turned away. Manager Kay O’Donnell says once they receive their food, staff will advise folks about where the nearest pantry is to their home.

Maribel Pepin’s husband, Charlie Pepin Rivera, is a disabled veteran who spent 24 years in the army and she's a stay at home mom to their four children.

"It's kind of difficult to have stability,” Pepin said.

But now, they’re getting the help they need through the food bank's Household Empowerment Program. It's a pilot program the food bank is sponsoring - helping 40 families in Euclid and Slavic Village fight hunger.

The families get unlimited access to the Hunger Center which is one of the more than 1,000 partner programs the food bank supports.

"They take care of you. They give you guidance, they help you with groceries and they make your life easier,” Pepin Rivera said.

To qualify, a household needs to have at least one adult seeking employment and a child under 18 years old.

For Dortilia Jones it's a blessing. She knows firsthand how hard it is to put food on the table.

"It seemed like it was a good fit for me, you know, seeing that I have a disabled child and I'm not working,” Jones said.

"With the resources that you get from the county you know, it's very limited.”

In addition to the food, families in the program also get support with applying for benefits like SNAP and Medicaid – as well as financial coaching and tips on credit building.

That support makes a huge difference, especially this time of year.

"No reason for anyone to go without food,” Jones said.

"Knowing that food bank is helping us make it, it makes it easier for us to have all the gatherings and a home and spend time with family,” Pepin Rivera said.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.