Raising the Bar - Serving Hunger and Poverty in Cincinnati

Organization Information:

Organization Name

Freestore Foodbank

Organization's Mission Statement

Mission:  We provide food and services; create stability and further self-reliance for people in crisis.

Vision:  To be the leader of a community mobilized to end hunger and address its causes.

Organization Website


Submission Information

Impact Essay

          The Freestore Foodbank is the third largest food bank in Ohio and the largest emergency social services outlet for the greater Cincinnati area. It is unique among the nation’s food banks in that it operates an emergency client services center in one of Cincinnati’s most impoverished inner-city neighborhoods, Over-the-Rhine. This area has a 25% poverty rate, twice the national average, and residents have an average median monthly income of $690.00 with 56% of families living below poverty. Our clients represent the city’s most vulnerable citizens, including the homeless, the unemployed, and the working poor. Those who come through our doors are offered a full array of services to assist them with housing, food, clothing, transportation, access to healthcare/treatment programs, identification, referrals to job training and other social services agencies, and other every day needs. Our choice pantry serves over 7,000 individuals a month and those numbers double in November and December when we provide additional food for the holidays. In the City of Cincinnati, the Freestore Foodbank has earned the reputation for being “the place to go” in times of need.

            On the food bank side of the house, we provide food resources for approximately 450 agencies in 20 counties in the tri-state area (Ohio, parts of Indiana and Kentucky), and serve roughly 160,000 individuals a year. With our new mobile pantry, and working in conjunction with faith-based and community organizations, we will be able to reach further into rural areas to serve those who are unable to come to our agency pantries for emergency food assistance. In addition to serving member agencies, we also offer feeding programs for children. Our Kids Cafe program provides nutritious hot meals for children and currently operates 12 sites. In 2008 we delivered 85,090 meals. Our Power Pack program provides shelf-stable, nutritious food for children to take home over the weekend to help prevent them from becoming hungry. Our Cincinnati Cooks! program assists adults with culinary training over a 10-week program to help them learn new job skills and as part of the process, these students prepare the meals served at the Kids Cafe locations. Since the program’s inception in 2001, there have been more than 400 students who have graduated and in working with approximately 120 employers in the Cincinnati area, more than 70% of the graduates have obtained and maintained consistent employment.

            Our growth was previously hampered by our ability to communicate and share information over multiple sites on a reliable network using standardized software. The servers were old, the software was ancient, and no one had the same version of word processing or spreadsheet software. It was difficult to share files between sites let alone between computers, as well as send things out to donors, board members, or anyone asking for information. Our mail was hosted externally for the upper staff and through POP mail from our internet provider for the remaining the staff. Without a common desktop platform, working together was difficult and cumbersome. There were no backups because the DAT tape drive that was being used had quit working, and there were no monies to replace it. Through the Microsoft donation program at TechSoup, we have been able to purchase software that we would not have been able to afford otherwise, make a multi-year plan for network and desktop standardization, formulate a reliable backup plan, and find a way to protect ourselves from potential disasters, bring e-mail in-house, and work towards bringing stability and security to our organization. A monumental task given our small budget, limited resources, but definitely one that had to happen for the vitality and growth of the organization.

            We began with the implementation of updated server technology. A server was purchased for each site and new server operating software and licenses were purchased and loaded onto them. Having a common operating system helped to end some of the issues that were happening between sites which was a huge time savings for the 1.5 members of the IT staff. It allowed us to take advantage of Active Directory for the first time and control access to files, form policy groups, enforce policies and helped us to secure some of the holes that were causing problems. From there, the standardization of the desktops began with the purchase of XP licenses and office licenses to bring us up to a level where we could share documents and not worry about what version or what program the document was created in. Productivity rose and fewer client files were delayed in reaching necessary desks as most of the paperwork is now available electronically. This is especially important now because we are seeing more than 200 clients daily.

            One of the most critical purchases that we made was the Data Protection Manager (DPM) software for doing shadow copy/replica backups of our files. It allowed us to take our data and save it off-site by having each site have its own DPM server located at the opposite site. It also allowed our user base to recover different versions of documents if they are accidentally overwritten or deleted. This advantage became especially important during the September 2008 windstorms when our Liberty Street location was without power for four days. We were still able to be partially operational because the site’s data was protected at another location and was restorable to another server.

            By purchasing and installing Exchange 2007, we were able to move everyone onto a single mail platform saving the Freestore Foodbank over $7,000 a year and allowing us features and options not previously available. With the Global Address Book, now no one is left off of important internal announcements when previously the administrative staff had to keep their own distribution lists. Calendar sharing has opened up a number of organizational time savings with departments having shared calendars for scheduling client appointments, vehicles, and meetings. With the Scheduling Assistant, they know who is available and when, no more calling around to find a time for everyone to meet – no more of the “Where’s Waldo” syndrome.

            Our future plans include implementing an Internet Security Acceleration server and dabbling with the Systems Management Server (SMS) product to see if it can cut down on upgrades and software deployment time so we don’t have to visit everyone’s desk every time something is rolled out or updated. One of our dreams is to have the Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) program so we can have real time monitoring of our servers from a central location and the ability to be notified immediately if there are problems. If awarded this prize, we will be able to accelerate our plans which would come at a perfect time as we are opening a new location in March of 2010.

Submission Category

Stable and Secure Technology