Stacey* is a busy mom with three busy children. Every Wednesday she and her children catch a Metro to the nearest grocery store five miles away. They shop and then wait for the bus to head back home. They then carry their six bags of groceries about half a mile to their house.
This is the reality for many families in the quaint, tight-knit neighborhood of Sayler Park. Cincinnati’s western- most neighborhood, Sayler Park is a virtual food desert. The one-mile long neighborhood runs parallel to the Ohio River and is laid out in beautiful, walkable blocks about two miles wide. Its location places Sayler Park away from most of the more populous Cincinnati neighborhoods, cut off from the rest of the city by miles of river-based industry running through neighboring Riverside and Sedamsville.
Be Moore, a Beech Acres Parenting Center Family Peer Support Provider, envisioned a different reality for the families of Sayler Park. In 2017, Be championed the Blessing Box, a tiny cabinet in the library that housed non-perishable food and hygiene items. While the Blessing Box was indeed a blessing for some of the families, donations were sporadic, stock levels were low, and ultimately it was an inadequate solution for the families at the school.
“I wanted to do more for the families at Sayler Park Elementary School,” Be said. The expansion of the Blessing Box began with a partnership with
LaSoupe. LaSoupe is a local non-profit that bridges the gap between food waste and community hunger by reclaiming otherwise wasted food to make delicious, nutritious soup for those in need. They began providing soup and other snacks to Sayler Park. “As much as this helped, it still did not meet the needs of many families,” Be commented.
Next, Be reached out to the Freestore Foodbank. After several meetings, Sayler Park was approved to host a food pantry. “The Freestore Foodbank provided two shelving units, a deep freezer, and a monthly allocation of $750 per month,” Be said. This proved to be a game changer for the community. Since opening two months ago, the food pantry has served 39 families, many of whom are repeat customers.
An added benefit from the food pantry is the trust that is built with the families. Be and the rest of the team at Sayler Park Elementary School have become a respected asset to the community. “The food pantry allows me to connect with families I would not otherwise come into contact with and address other resource needs they may be experiencing such as clothing, school supplies, rent/utility assistance, and of course mental health support,” Be observed.
By connecting closely with families and providing a valuable and much-needed resource like the food pantry, Beech Acres staff members are able to focus on important behavioral and mental health needs of the students without worrying about a client’s hunger or nutrition. “Regardless of their individual circumstances, parents no longer have to struggle to feed their children, and those children are coming to school well-fed and ready to learn.