One in seven people in the Tri-State area are at risk of hunger - a staggering number that continues to increase with the enduring impacts of COVID-19. Since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March, Freestore Foodbank has distributed more than 8.5 million meals - a 59% rise in food distribution compared to a typical three-month period. This surge has compounded Freestore Foodbank's existing storage limitations and inefficiencies in operations. This urgent need in our community has driven Freestore Foodbank, the region's leading hunger relief organization, to accelerate the announcement and efforts of a capital and strategic fundraising campaign.
Called Growing Beyond Hunger, the $30 million campaign prioritizes investments in infrastructure, capacity building and service expansion. The campaign and comprehensive long-term response plan will transform Freestore Foodbank's ability to address emergency relief and ultimately achieve its vision of a hunger-free, healthy and thriving community.
The Growing Beyond Hunger campaign is chaired by P&G CEO David Taylor, who has been instrumental in driving community leadership and urgency. Joining Taylor are Campaign Co-Chairs Jim Dressman, DBL Law partner, Marty Dunn, Dinsmore & Shohl partner, and Teresa Tanner, former Fifth Third executive vice president and community volunteer, as well as an 18-member volunteer cabinet of diverse philanthropic, business and community leaders.
Nearly $20 million has been pledged toward the campaign with $5 million gifts by both P&G and The Farmer Family Foundation.
''The number of people facing food insecurity in our Greater Cincinnati community has risen dramatically because of the pandemic," said David Taylor, chair of the campaign and CEO of P&G. "The much-needed centralized distribution and workforce training center will allow Freestore Foodbank to scale up their services to serve an additional 40,000 people and provide 16 million more meals annually."
In addition, Western & Southern Financial Fund, Kroger Co. Foundation, Fifth Third Foundation, Great American Insurance Group, and the Rosenthal Family Foundation stepped forward as leadership level funders.
"The Farmer Family Foundation is proud to partner with the Freestore Foodbank as it expands its efforts to meet the needs of our region's vulnerable population," said Mary Beth Martin, its Executive Director. "Beyond simply meeting the needs of the food insecure, the Freestore Foodbank will grow its workforce training programs to help people achieve self-sufficiency. The Foundation supports this campaign to ensure we not only have a hunger free community, but a bright future full of opportunity for all."
These initial donations have provided critical support for Freestore Foodbank to move forward in addressing urgent infrastructure improvements including securing a site for a new 150,000 sq. ft. distribution and workforce training center that will provide critically needed refrigeration and freezer capacity for Freestore Foodbank and its pantries to ensure more fresh, healthy foods are supplied.
Freestore Foodbank and its 500-plus partner agencies currently serve more than 33.8 million meals across 20 counties in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region. For 10 years, Freestore Foodbank and its partner network have seen a steady increase in demand for food and support services that has outgrown what its current facilities and operations are equipped to meet.
The new distribution and workforce training center will be located in Wilder, KY. Freestore Foodbank anticipates breaking ground within 12 months with future construction announcements and timeline updates to come as plans are finalized. The new facility and infrastructure improvements will allow the organization to annually serve 220,000 individuals and provide 47 million meals.
"We have to outpace the need. As our city's leading hunger-relief organization, we must be prepared to provide emergency food. We're proud of how our community, staff, and donors have stepped up to help us mobilize the greatest need for food we've ever seen," said Kurt Reiber, CEO of Freestore Foodbank. "To be sustainable we must expand our capacity and expand the capacity of pantries across the network. This has to be in addition to our ongoing efforts to end hunger. Our neighbors deserve to be offered a pathway from crisis to stability."
In addition to increasing healthy food storage and distribution, Growing Beyond Hunger seeks to double the number of workforce training graduates, implement stronger infrastructure across the pantry network, increase innovation and funding to scale best practices, and achieve long-term organizational sustainability. Freestore Foodbank, a United Way of Greater Cincinnati agency, commits to advancing and helping individuals and families in poverty. The Growing Beyond Hunger campaign will allow the organization to better prepare for and respond to sudden economic changes and increased need.
Freestore Foodbank seeks an additional $10 million to fully fund the Growing Beyond Hunger plan and critical emergency response relief investments. To learn more about the Growing Beyond Hunger campaign and opportunities to give, visit www.GrowingBeyondHunger.org.
About Freestore Foodbank
Freestore Foodbank is one of the 200 food bank members of Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Freestore Foodbank's mission is to provide food and services, create stability and further self-reliance for people in crisis in a 20-county service area of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Last year, the Freestore Foodbank provided over 33.8 million meals with 511 community partners, trained over 200 in the COOKS! and LIFT the TriStatejob training programs, and served 17,000 individuals in stabilization services. For more information, please visit www.freestorefoodbank.org.