Rise of food cupboards meant to alleviate food insecurity, especially in Dayton suburbs

Some communities are starting small cupboards to feed families they see struggling in their area.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

If you’re driving anywhere in the region these days, you might notice little boxes that have popped up outside of community centers like schools and libraries, filled with nonperishable items for people to take.

These mini food pantries, or cupboards, are becoming more common, especially in suburban settings like Kettering. The Kettering Leadership Class of 2023 put together a cupboard outside of Oakview Elementary School on East Stroop Road, with the official unveiling Wednesday.

“It’s accessible all the time whenever somebody needs it,” said Jessica Stickel, KCS Forward Foundation director, which supports Kettering Schools, and a member of the 2023 class of the Kettering Leadership Academy.

While most people don’t think of Kettering as a food-insecure city, Lee Lauren Truesdale, chief Development officer of The Food Bank, said Kettering and Beavercreek have popped up on their radar as two cities that have food insecurity and need assistance.

The zip code most served by The Food Bank is 45417, which includes West Dayton’s Edgemont neighborhood and Residence Park, but also parts of Germantown, according to Truesdale. But Truesdale said zip codes in Kettering, Fairborn and Beavercreek have food insecurity as well.

The little food cupboards are not affiliated with The Food Bank, but Truesdale said they can be a good measure for people who are food insecure and busy, and who can’t make it to a traditional food giveaway.

“We think a lot about hunger existing only in very urban communities, but it happens in suburban communities as well and also in more rural communities,” Truesdale said. “So I think that that’s a great resource for communities when they have those little pop-up pantries.”

Truesdale said part of The Food Bank’s job is to figure out where the highest needs for food are and what time people might be able to make it to pick up the food. But their own volunteers and workers have obligations, including on weekends, which can make it difficult for people who work a traditional job or have kids to pick up the items.

Stickel said the Kettering group has funding for four total cupboards at schools. The one at Oakview will be taken care of by Good Shepard Lutheran Church, which is about a block away from the school.

Jamie Vannoy, pastor at Good Shepard, said the church chose to help with this one because they saw a need with the other food pantries they have in the city.

“We just realized that with the other pantries that we supported as well on the Kettering community that it’s very much a need,” Vannoy said.

Truesdale said there is still an increased need for food across the board. At a food pick-up last week, Truesdale said The Food Bank served 2,034 households – nearly four times as many as they would serve before the pandemic began.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

She said the need is greater across the board, too. Their partner agencies and past food distributions have also found an increased need for food in the region.

“Our job at The Food Bank and our network’s job is to make sure that everyone has food if they need food, but to make sure people have food so they don’t fall into the cycle of poverty,” Truesdale said.

Truesdale said people know their communities best. If you see a need that isn’t being met, reach out to The Food Bank.

To donate or volunteer with The Food Bank, or to find dates and times when you can get food, visit thefoodbankdayton.org.

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