COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Mid-Ohio Food Collective (MOFC) is starting a campaign to fundraise, innovate its services, and ultimately end hunger across Central Ohio.
The organization recently launched its ‘Rooted-In-You Campaign to Reimagine Hunger’ to achieve a $30 million fundraising goal for its 20-county service area.
“If all we do is give you really good food and never really understand why you had to cross the threshold of a food pantry, then we don’t think we’ve done enough,” said Matt Habash, the president, and CEO at MOFC.
Although plans for the campaign were formulated prior to the COVID-19 health crisis, the pandemic highlighted the organization’s importance and exacerbated needs in the community.
“I’ve been around for 37 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve been through a number of recessions in the past and seen economic downtowns that increase our work… but really nothing like this,” Habash said.
He explained between March 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, at least 200,400 families made more than 1.26 million trips to MOFC facilities across 20 counties. Sudden unemployment, remote learning, and other changing financial situations forced 64,000 of those families to seek food assistance for the first time.
Habash expects it could take several years for many of those affected by the pandemic strain to no longer need assistance.
“We learned this from the recessions — it’s a long, slow recovery,” he said.
He anticipates the ‘Rooted-In-You’ campaign will help MOFC rise to the expected challenge. With support from private contributions and corporate partners from Nationwide, Huntington, and AEP, the organization has already raised 80 percent of its fundraising goal.
The money will help support five major initiatives. One priority, Habash said, will be opening more community food markets. MOFC currently operates several of the grocery store-style pantries in Reynoldsburg and at Columbus State Community College. In 2021, it plans to replicate the model in communities without adequate access to fresh food.
MOFC plans to improve and expand its ‘Edufarm,’ an urban farming project in the Hilltop neighborhood that provides a community gathering space, teaches sustainability, and advances new agriculture and food distribution strategies.
The organization will also make improvements to its main Grove City facility, upgrading parts of the building and adding a kitchen to prepare ready-to-eat meals for clients.
Another key component will be an investment in MOFC’s data and insights to better track who is using its services and why. Habash explained the goal is to connect clients with other community services to address underlying challenges
“We really want to understand your needs so maybe we can prevent something from happening upstream so you don’t get on a pathway where you get evicted and eventually end up homeless. We’re really looking at – how can we use our intervention of food in a much more strategic way,” Habash explained.
Part of the fundraising will also enhance the Food Collective’s annual fund, which Habash said will be critical to long-term sustainability.
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