[Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series highlighting our NGO partners participating in Ford Fund’s COVID-19 Donation Match program.]
During the pandemic, U.S. food banks are playing an essential role in communities. The Ford Fund COVID-19 Donation Match program is helping them keep up with increased demand for their services.
As of mid-June, employees have raised more than $312,000. The Ford Fund and Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford are matching employee donations up to $500,000, making a total of $1 million going to support projects focused on hunger, shelter and medical needs.
The match program is administered by GlobalGiving, Ford’s global disaster relief and grant partner. Some 40 projects in 20 countries have been selected as beneficiaries of the program for their emergency needs and the presence of Ford employees in their communities. Below are stories of three such in the United States and how they are using the funds. For a complete list of NGO partners, click here.
Ohio: Greater Cleveland Food Bank
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is the largest hunger relief organization in Northeast Ohio, serving more than 350,000 people in 2019. It operates a community food distribution center, providing critical grocery products to more than 1,000 local food pantries as well as hot meals to shelters and other nonprofit agencies. The Cleveland organizations is currently working to serve the clients of nearly 200 small nonprofits that closed during the pandemic.
“The shutdown has brought many more people to our doors,” said Amy Kocian, senior manager, Foundation Relations, Greater Cleveland Food Bank. “We have seen an increase in new clients to the food bank upwards of 30 percent, which means people who have never been to a food pantry.”
Over the past six weeks, the Ohio National Guard has been helping to pack and distribute food safely following non-contact guidelines. Food bank staff members are also helping low-income residents apply for benefits through the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“Every state and every area are going through different, and yet the same things,” added Kocian. “The needs are the same. Every dollar donated provides four meals. We’re grateful for any support.”
Kansas City, Missouri: Feed Northland Kids
Feed Northland Kids focuses on children who relied on their school for at least one meal a day. With schools closed, nearly 1,000 families of middle and high school students are receiving a bag of groceries each week in place of meals they had been getting at school. Families pick up the groceries at one of four locations, including three churches and a school services building.
“It’s going along like clockwork, just beautifully for something that came together so quickly,” said Chris Evans, executive director, Feed Northland Kids. “We were fortunate to have good partners who were ready to step in and help fill this gap. Together, we got a good system going.”
More than 2,000 grade school students receive meals through the food bank’s ongoing Weekend Backpack program, which has been supported by Ford Fund for the past two years. After schools were closed, Ford Fund reached out to the food bank to see if it needed additional help. The new food kit initiative provides a grocery bag each week containing 18-20 items, such as tuna, pasta, beans, peanut butter and a fresh loaf of bread.
“If you’ve got nothing else in your house, you’re really happy to have it,” added Evans. “We’re very grateful to Ford Fund for helping us help our community.”
Miami-Dade County, Florida: The Education Fund
The Education Fund has helped more than 15,000 students and families in an area that has one of the highest poverty rates in the U.S. Here, three out of four children receive federal food assistance.
Additionally, many residents work in the hospitality industry and have been laid off due to the closure of restaurants, bars and hotels during the pandemic.
“Families are suffering,” said Linda Lecht, president, The Education Fund. “We’re here to help.”
The Education Fund receives food, household paper products and cleaning supplies valued at more than $342,000 that are distributed to homes. Among the items delivered is fresh produce grown in The Education Fund’s own food forests.
The Education Fund’s food program focuses on nutrition and environmental sustainability education and includes more than two dozen school gardens. When school is in session, bounty from the gardens is used in the school cafeteria and given to students to take home.
“Just because schools are closed doesn’t mean the learning stops or the need has gone away,” said Lecht. “With Ford Fund’s support, we’ve been able to send a lot of learning tools home. Students still need crayons and markers and paper.”
The Fund also coaches students on financial aid and testing while training teachers on instructional best practices and online strategies.
For more than 30 years, the Education Fund has been engaged in community educational excellence. Ford Fund and local Ford dealers have been part of the effort for 20 years.