Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio offers hope to the hungry

Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio’s mission is to grow hope in the region by creating pathways to nutritious food, says Julie Chase-Morefield, president and CEO of the nonprofit organization.

“We certainly remain aspirational that we can end hunger,” Chase-Morefield says. “At the very least, we want to do our very best to make sure that if someone in our community needs help with food, they know where to go to get it.”

Chase-Morefield was serving as a director of operations for the food bank in Toledo prior to coming to Second Harvest in 2004.

“I actually grew up in this area,” she says. “So it was a chance for me to come back to a community that I love and be able to do work that I care about deeply.”

Solving problems

Second Harvest provides service to Lorain, Erie, Huron and Crawford counties, and from July 2018 to June 2019, it distributed 9.5 million pounds of food, equaling nearly 7.9 million meals. The nonprofit is currently in a cycle where it’s seeing a significant amount of food come through federal programs due to trade mitigation, which is meant to assist agricultural producers impacted by foreign tariffs. 

“That’s a huge influx of product, which is amazing for now,” Chase-Morefield says. “But at some point, that shifts again, it goes away, and then we have to find other food sources.”

Among the biggest challenges for most food banks, including Second Harvest, is an aging population and a rising number of children who are struggling to get the food they need.

“We did a child hunger summit in September and we were looking at not only what we were doing at Second Harvest but how are we working with the schools to make sure that children are signed up for the free and reduced lunch program?” Chase-Morefield says. “How can we make sure that they have those meals that they need if they’re eligible?”

Thinking strategically

Second Harvest works with numerous organizations, including Lorain County Public Health and Lorain County Community College, among others, to ensure that everyone is focused on the same objectives and to implement strategies that work.

“We want to make sure that children have the food that they need to grow and thrive,” Chase-Morefield says. “We try to harness the resources within the community of all of these different entities to focus on the same issue and try to help the people who need it.”

Recession preparation

When a recession hits, there is often a learning curve for those who have never used a food bank, Chase-Morefield says.

“We try to work with our food pantry to make sure people have resources to help guide people,” she says.