- Story Highlights
- “We cannot have a healthy and vibrant community if our neighbors cannot afford to eat.”
It is not how long you live in a place that counts, but the impact you make while there.
Etana Jacobi is certainly making her mark on the Gem City.
The Hooksett, N.H. native is the Dayton manager of the Hall of Hunger Initiative, an effort supported by the United Way of the Greater Dayton Area and the Jack W. and Sally D. Eichelberger Foundation, aimed at reducing food insecurity and increasing food access.
The resident of Dayton’s South Park neighborhood is our latest Daytonian of the Week.
What is your passion and why?
PEOPLE. I'm passionate about a lot of political issues, but really at the core of what I care about most in this world is how the decisions we make individually and collectively affect those around us. Humans are complex, imperfect, funny and strange strange creatures, and I am consistently amazed and challenged by what we're capable of -- both the good and the not-so-good. I figure you come into this life alone and you leave it alone, so why not invest your time on this planet with and for others?
What do you love about life in Dayton?
I love that this city is filled with folks who are passionate about their home and committed to making it better. I also love that you can have the benefits of life in the city with the feel of a small town. Not only is there always something to do, but there is a good chance you are going to run into someone you know while doing it. Also, the donuts.
>> MORE: You have to try these Dayton donuts
Why did you decide to move here?
I moved here in the fall of 2015 for a job at the Kettering Foundation with no intention of staying very long. I have spent the majority of my adult life bouncing between major cities on the east coast and a small city in the Midwest where I knew no one was not the most appealing. Fortunately, I found a community of people here who are kind, committed and willing to share their home with me. I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a Daytonian and excited to put some roots down here.
What would you do on a perfect date in Dayton?
There are so many things going on in Dayton, I feel like there is no one perfect date. Perfect date options might include going to a festival in the summer or fall, walking downtown for a movie at the Neon followed by dinner at one of the many awesome locally-owned restaurants, a picnic and hike in one of our fabulous Five Rivers MetroParks, biking on our great bike trails, taste testing delicious donuts at all of the local spots on my personal quest to find the best donut in the region. The possibilities are endless.
Q) What would you change about Dayton?
Dayton is a small city with big city problems. It is also a place filled with tremendous assets, a rich and complicated history, and infinite opportunities for growth. I believe in our capacity to build a stronger city for ALL Daytonians, and I think we can only do it with an intentional community-wide focus on issues of equity and justice in our own backyard.
What should people know about Dayton?
Hunger is real in Dayton. Almost a third of households with children struggle with food hardship in our community. Most of the west side has been classified as a food desert by the USDA. Thirty-eight percent of clients served by The Foodbank report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities/heating fuel. It is simply unacceptable. We cannot have a healthy and vibrant community if our neighbors cannot afford to eat.
>> RELATED: Meet the top Daytonians of 2017
What is your hidden talent?
If I have a hidden talent, it is hidden even to me.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
In 10 to 15 years, I see a strong food ecosystem in Dayton, generating an abundance of healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate food, grown and sold locally with care for the well-being of the workers, animals and environment that sustain it.
I see worker and community-owned businesses, like the Gem City Market, thriving throughout the city. I see every child attending quality Pre-K programs and our students hitting their third-grade reading and eighth-grade math targets. I see young families living throughout the city and sending their children to Dayton Public Schools with pride. I see a vibrant downtown on the nights and weekends with locally-owned businesses filling up our store fronts. I see the Hope Center serving as an anchor institution in NorthWest Dayton, disrupting cycles of poverty and empowering families.