Greater Cleveland Food Bank Expands Benefits For Families, Grab & Go Meals In Lakewood

Outreach Truck on-site at Garfield School Friday, July 17 from 10:30- noon

July 16, 2020
Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Greater Cleveland Food Bank

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The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is bringing more to Lakewood than grab & go meals this summer during the COVID -19 pandemic. With support from Councilperson Tristan Rader and the City of Lakewood, the Food Bank is helping newly expanded benefits reach families, children, seniors, & more. The need is there - more than 1 in 3 children living in Lakewood qualify for free or reduced price lunch (live below 185% of poverty) per the American Community Survey.

Every Friday, the Food Bank now distributes grab & go lunches to Lakewood children in front of Garfield Middle School. In addition to providing nutritious food, the Food Bank, with help from the City of Lakewood and the School District, also sign up those eligible to access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or other benefits.

Outreach Counselors offer insight about what people may qualify for and provide on-site help for people picking up meals at the Friday events. Thanks to flexibilities provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and State of Ohio, the Food Bank is able to provide grab & go lunches to children-in-need throughout the summer months, providing a safe environment for kids to receive nutritious meals. Parents or guardians can also pick up the meals in an effort to make the process as seamless as possible.  All children in the area are eligible for these meals.

“We help people who qualify for these critical benefits and may not have realized it,” says Tiffany Scruggs, Director of Benefits Outreach for the Food Bank. In early June, Scruggs contacted Councilperson Rader about partnering with the City of Lakewood for this program. As a former Food Bank employee, Rader had helped launch the Benefits Outreach program several years ago, and he was instantly onboard.

“There are a lot of folks in great need, right here in Lakewood, and many are children,” says Rader. "We are so fortunate and thankful to have partners like Greater Cleveland Food Bank who have stepped up to help meet that need."

Lakewood’s Mayor Meghan George and the city’s Health & Human Services Department welcomed the idea. Now the Food Bank brings benefits counseling and meals to Lakewood every Friday, and hopes to spread the word.

Both the resources for help and the need have expanded this year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Households living in Lakewood have made more than 2,600 visits to Food Bank partners agencies during the pandemic.
 
“In my 20 years with the organization, we have never been so busy,” says Food Bank President & CEO Kristin Warzocha. “More and more people are turning to us for help—particularly clients needing assistance for the first time.”

Meanwhile some government benefits are available to more people than before. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, for example, expanded assistance to children who were receiving free or reduced priced meals at school and allows people who had reached the limit of eligibility to re-enroll. The combination of changes to eligibility and people who haven’t used these programs before makes experienced help invaluable, says Rader.

“Maybe you don’t qualify for food assistance, but you do qualify for benefits from another program,” he says. “Tiffany and the outreach counselors help people navigate these programs and simplify what may be unfamiliar for someone.”

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank offers grab & go meals and benefits counseling in Lakewood every Friday in front of Garfield Middle School, 13114 Detroit Avenue. The next event is July17, from 10:30 –noon. Adults that have children in their home or children without an adult can simply walk up to the Food Bank Outreach Truck that will be sitting outside.

The Food Bank is also a partner in three summer events to distribute free produce at Lakewood High School, although benefits counseling is not available during these events.

There are an additional 56 sites partnered with the Food Bank this summer offering grab & go meals for children in our community. For a site near you, please call 216-738-2067 or go to www.GreaterClevelandFoodBank.org and click on the link to the map to find the site nearest to where you live.