Four-time PGA Tour winner Ben Curtis has always been a golfer at heart. Swinging clubs at the mere age of 3, he attended Kent State University on a golf scholarship and eventually won the British Open. He has since retired from playing professional golf but offers lessons and mentorship to aspiring athletes.

Though this legacy is impressive, Ben and his wife Candace are making an even more meaningful impact in Northeast Ohio through the Ben Curtis Family Foundation, a hunger-relief partner of the Foodbank. Ten years ago, the couple invested tournament winnings to create the nonprofit focused on providing bags of food and toiletries for weekends and holiday breaks to children facing food insecurity.

Birdie Bag, the flagship program, initially served 135 kids at an elementary school in Kent. Now the program assembles 4,000 bags monthly for children of all ages within four school districts spanning three counties.

The bags include easy-to-prepare meals, snacks and a toiletry kit. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, widely known as food stamps, do not cover the cost for essential household items, like cleaning products, bathroom tissue or personal hygiene necessities.

“I’ll never forget learning that we gave a 7-year-old their first toothbrush. The school nurse had to teach him how to use it,” said Candace.

The program has grown significantly as COVID-19 has affected many local families. “Hunger is everywhere and you don’t even know it. Everything can look really great on the surface, but you don’t realize these families are choosing between paying a bill or eating.”

Candace and foundation staff members hear stories about grandparents taking care of grandchildren, single parents attempting to raise kids on one income, and families who don’t qualify for SNAP trying to make ends meet.

“Though some families try to keep some normalcy for their children by allowing them to play sports and participate in other afterschool activities, kids are still doing adult things – missing practice to take care of siblings and worrying about food.”

As the Ben Curtis Family Foundation continues to serve the kids and families of Northeast Ohio, the Foodbank is grateful for their partnership and the many passionate community members caring for one another. Thank you for supporting local hunger relief!