USDA approves Ohio Disaster Household Distribution Program
Apr 07, 2020
Today, the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank was grateful and relieved to receive word that the USDA Food and Nutrition Service had approved a request from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services for a Disaster Household Distribution Program.
This approval will temporarily waive the household verification and income eligibility requirements normally connected to The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). It will allow the Foodbank to serve families seeking help during this crisis without requiring close person-to-person contact to collect items like name, address, household demographics and income verification.
“We place a high value on accountability at our Foodbank, and, under normal circumstances, federal eligibility requirements are not a burden on our network,” said Foodbank President and CEO Dan Flowers. “However, in these extraordinary times, the safety of our staff and volunteers has been put at risk by collecting data. So we are deeply grateful for this decision and the strong advocacy efforts of senators Rob Portman, Sherrod Brown and Kirk Schuring, and congress members Marcia Fudge and Anthony Gonzales on our behalf.”
The need for waiving TEFAP requirements was felt acutely by members of the staff and Ohio National Guard at the Foodbank’s last drive-through grocery distribution. Though the intake process was conducted through car windows to minimize personal contact with many people wearing protective masks, it was difficult to communicate from a distance.
The Foodbank has worked diligently to follow recommended guidelines for sanitization, physical distancing and health screening. But without widespread access to personal protective equipment, the Foodbank is limited in its ability to protect staff and volunteers from potential coronavirus exposure.
“We’ve encouraged hunger-relief partners within our network to shift to a drive-through distribution model or a to-go model to help minimize person-to-person contact,” said Katie Carver Reed, director of the Foodbank’s network partners and programs. “We’ve been doing more than ever to provide our network the resources they need to continue serving our community. Sharing best practices through weekly updates, delivering food directly to partner sites, providing Foodbank staff and National Guard member support and offering more free food on our menu because of the generosity of the community- we’re all in this together. We’re thankful for our network serving on the front lines fighting hunger.”
The Foodbank has seen a tremendous increase in need as the coronavirus continues to impact families out of work. Last month, the Foodbank and its network of hunger-relief partners saw a 109 percent increase in first-time visitors over March of last year. Because of the increase in need, an additional grocery distribution will be held at the Foodbank on Thursday, April 9 from 3pm-5pm.
In the weeks and months ahead, it will be crucial that the Foodbank and its network of hunger-relief partners remain equipped with the food and resources needed to prevent hunger during this widespread crisis. As food donations from retailers and manufacturers decline, the Foodbank will need to purchase food to sustain its inventory. Please consider donating to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank at akroncantonfoodbank.org.