In Dayton, A Hunger Free Community Leads the Way

January 30, 2018

Hall Hunger Initiative and GotVeggies collaborate on viable solutions

By Terri Wehrley-Pyles, Volunteer/Project Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA, Hall Hunger Initiative

Courtesy: GotVeggies

Terri is an AmeriCorps VISTA at Hall Hunger Initiative through the Alliance to End Hunger’s VISTA program for Hunger Free Communities.

There are some alarming and daunting hunger statistics for those of us in Ohio: Ohio is ranked fifth in the nation for “hungriest” states by Bread for the World, and Dayton itself is ranked second in the nation for food hardship among households with children in the 2016 FRAC report (Food Research & Action Center). While 16.1% of households are at risk of hunger in Ohio, Dayton has a shocking 29.4% of households with children struggling with food hardship.  With nearly a third of our residents struggling to eat, The Hall Hunger Initiative and GotVeggies are partnering to find a viable solution to this crisis.

Like many other “rust belt” cities, Dayton has suffered job losses, grocery store closures, and is now dealing with a recent announcement of a hospital closure. Significantly, all of this is taking place in our food desert.  Daytonians, who are vulnerable to diet-related diseases, infant mortality, and opioid addictions, live in our food desert and are eager for a solution to feed their families.

Knowing that nearly 40% of our food supply doesn’t end up on a dinner table, but instead is rotting on the vine or thrown into our landfills, the Hall Hunger Initiative (HHI) is doing something about it. This past fall, HHI partnered with a local gleaning group, GotVeggies, and not only gleaned Monnin’s Fruit Farm apples but also came up with a strategy to grow our local efforts to bring more of this bounty to dinner tables in our city.

Courtesy: GotVeggies

Gleaning is an ancient practice that requires innovation and a strategy for any given area.  The Hall Hunger Initiative is harnessing this practice in a city known for its innovation (think Wright Brothers). We started by looking around at successful gleaning efforts in our region and found eight Chaminade Julienne High School students (Cole Breeding,  Andrew Buchanan, Evan Eichenauer, Samantha Evans,  Katie Kohnen, Sarah Hartley, Clayton Mathile, and Nicole VanVoorhis)  who are committed to their GotVeggies mission. Their work to glean fields/orchards has gathered over 50,000 lbs. of produce. By supplying Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley with fresh weekly produce, this group is not only addressing food insecurity but also food waste. HHI, along with myself and my good fortune to be able to call upon an agricultural background, are leading the efforts and supplying the back bone support of efficient coordination and management which is necessary to make these efforts sustainable. GotVeggies has consistency, experience, and reliability at the cornerstone of their mission. They glean at a scheduled time each week from August to November, have a combined tenure of 16 years of experience, and they have built a strong relationship with local farmers. Gleaning brings this group of friends together, prevents unacceptable waste, and has an immediate local impact.

Courtesy: GotVeggies

HHI’s plan for bringing people in our community together to end hunger and food insecurity includes a strategy these young gleaners helped to identify: having an older sibling or friend teach them about a local need, provision of an opportunity to volunteer, and a way to witness their actions making a local impact in their community. Encouraged by the HHI, GotVeggies is making a promotional video in hopes of inspiring other teens /volunteers to join in our mission. GotVeggies has set themselves up in the Dayton area with a legacy as the founders of a large scale gleaning effort. We couldn’t be more pleased.