Freestore Foodbank

Industry: Food Distribution RDP Investment: $15 million Launched: December 2021

Cincinnati (OH) – RDP allocated $15 million in NMTCs to fill the funding gap for Freestore Foodbank (FSFB) to expand the capacity and efficiency of their distribution center as they fight food insecurity in a 20-county tri-state region. The new 224,000 SF community resource and distribution center increases the ability to ship and store food and enabled the foodbank to expand their programs and services. The facility strategically incorporated operational efficiencies around warehousing and logistics freeing up valuable resources to focus on growth and expansion into underserved markets, and provide space to expand workforce development programs. The facility includes a 8,600 SF test kitchen and over 31,000 SF of cooler and freezer space, enabling a variety of services that encourage healthy food nutrition.

FSFB is the largest emergency food and service provider in Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and Southeast Indiana, providing over 41 million meals a year to rural communities and Greater Cincinnati through a network of more than 574 partner agencies.

Freestore Foodbank

“Free Store” was founded in 1971 by Frank Gerson, and in 1979 became a founding member of Feeding America. Demand increased by nearly 200% from 2009-2019, forcing the need for additional warehouse storage in Wilder, KY. In 2020, the pandemic led to a 50% food distribution increase, as FSFB served 40+ million pounds of food to those in need causing significant strain on facilities not built to accommodate such increases.

FSFB’s “Growing Beyond Hunger” campaign launched just prior to the pandemic and set out to raise $30 million for the expansion. NMTCs filled the funding gap for the new 224,000 square foot community resource and distribution center, allowing for retention of capital resources for mission driven operations.

Workforce Development Opportunities through Facility Expansion

Freestore Foodbank is making great strides in their new expanded facility as they offer valuable educational opportunities to unemployed and underemployed individuals residing in their tri-state region. Training programs that help those struggling earn a Living Wage.

The LIFT program gives individuals a unique opportunity to learn essential job skills and credentials for employment in growing industries; credentials include Certified Logistics Associate (CLA), Certified Logistics Technician (CLT), Forklift Operator License, Serv-safe Manager Certificate, and the LIFT Tri-State Certificate. This 10-week free job training program provides hands-on training from experienced warehouse personnel at Freestore Foodbank; specialized coursework was designed by Gateway Community and Technical College, and links to local employment opportunities provided through BelFlex Staffing Network and other program partners. In addition to free training, the program supplies each student with transportation, clothing, and lunch during the program. Graduates of the LIFT program receive an average pay of $20-$25/hour, exceeding the area living wage of $16.26/hour.

LIFE 2023-2024 graduating class (Photo from GCTC)

CULINARY TRAINING – The Cincinnati COOKS! program is a 10-week course, students learn the mechanics of a commercial kitchen, as well as professional and life skills to ensure success in the food service industry and in their personal lives. The students also make a difference in the lives of hungry children. Most of the snacks and meals they prepare during training are served at Kids Cafe, the foodbank’s after-school feeding program for school-age children. Up to 3,750 meals are provided each week at more than a dozen school sites! Employers looking to hire a graduate of the Cincinnati COOKS! program can go to: https://freestorefoodbank.org/employer-job-posting-students/

Cincinnati COOKS! Program participants

RDP Impact

* Expanded Capacity
* Improved Efficiency
* Expansion to Underserved Markets
* Test Kitchen for Nutrition
* Expanded Cooler/Freezer for Fresh Food
* Expanded Programs & Services

Skills

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