Miami Township does healthy food access with a twist

The Miami Township WeTHRIVE! team brought together a variety of partners to address a need they feel passionate about: healthy food access.

On a Tuesday in early April, the first Miami Township Food Distribution Event took place in the Three Rivers School District parking lot. Tables were stocked with surplus food and personal care items – all free for anyone in need. The event also included cooking demonstrations featuring surplus foods, education on ways to avoid wasting food, and other health-related topics.

Post-pandemic food insecurity

Carrie Bernard manages the Miami Township branch of the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library (CHPL) and is a member of Miami Township’s WeTHRIVE! team. She says that during the pandemic, the library was able to give out free food boxes to children in the community. The need has not gone away now that the pandemic is over.

“We get regular requests for pantry locations from customers looking to supplement their food needs,” Carrie says. “This has increased, of course, with inflation because food costs have risen and the money does not go as far as it used to.”

Karen Herbert, director of the Miami Township Senior Center and member of Miami Township’s WeTHRIVE! team, agrees. “While most of Miami Township might live comfortably, there is a population of people that need assistance,” Karen says. “It’s so expensive to go to the store nowadays and if you have a family to feed or are on a fixed income like a lot of my seniors it can be really hard.” 

Adult female smiling headshot of Karen Herbert.

Food distribution with a twist

Carrie, Karen, and the rest of Miami Township’s WeTHRIVE! team knew they wanted to do something related to healthy food access for their community. After meeting Tony Staubach, food waste conversion coordinator with Hamilton County R3Source, the plan came together.

Tony told the team about a food distribution event his group organized in Carthage last fall. They gave away surplus food and other items, things that were rescued from being thrown away. All the food was still healthy, wholesome, and nutritious. The event also included education about food waste and how to use “upcycled” food in recipes.

Bags of oranges on table with other tables visible in the distance in school parking lot.

Part of something bigger

The Miami Township event took place on day two of Hamilton County R3Source’s Wasted Food Stops With Us Week, a five day series of media appearances, cooking demonstrations, and education on the importance of food storage, preparation, purchasing, and planning in hopes of limiting food waste.

Tony says Miami Township’s event was an important part of the week’s activities. “Honestly, this was for me one of the flagship events that we’ve done this year, because this is something that every community can do.”

How did a small WeTHRIVE! team do it?

Miami Township’s WeTHRIVE! team consists of Carrie, Karen, Dan Reid (recently retired township administrator), and Nicole Key (WeTHRIVE! population health specialist). But they collaborated with key partners to put on an event that distributed 15,000 pounds of food and other items.

Two women standing in parking lot next to signs.

“This event was a very good example of what the ideal WeTHRIVE! project looks like,” Nicole explains. “Because we had a WeTHRIVE! community team working with a WeTHRIVE! school team along with WeTHRIVE! partners.”

Organizations involved included:

  • Miami Township Branch Library (WeTHRIVE! partner)
  • Miami Township Senior Center
  • Miami Township
  • Three Rivers Local School District (WeTHRIVE! school district)
  • Freestore Foodbank (WeTHRIVE! partner)
  • Master Provisions
  • Last Mile Food Rescue
  • Hamilton County R3SOURCE (WeTHRIVE! partner)
  • Food for the Soul
  • Hamilton County Public Health (tobacco prevention)
  • CareSource
  • Molina Healthcare
  • Help4Seniors (WeTHRIVE! partner)

Positive response from the community

Attendees were impressed with the live cooking demonstrations done by Food for the Soul. They used surplus food in two recipes – Soul Rolls and Waffle Parfaits. The Soul Rolls seem to be a crowd favorite, as both Carrie and Karen mentioned how much everyone loved them.

Carrie says, “Personally, I helped several customers that were thrilled to try new foods and to have selections far beyond the staples they are used to sticking with at the grocery store because they fall within their budget, especially the avocados, lemons, and fresh spinach.”

Karen also saw a lot of people leaving with full carts of items. “What was left at the end of the day, we gave to a couple of local food pantries. And we left happy, knowing we helped a lot of people.”

Table with bags of apples and three adults and shopping cart in parking lot.

This is just the beginning

The team is planning their next food distribution event, which will be held in August.

Learn more about WeTHRIVE! in Miami Township here.