Councilwoman Cheryl Stephens Champions Support for Greater Cleveland Food Bank
One of the ways Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Cheryl Stephens has always kept in touch with her constituents is by getting to know the people and organizations that serve them. Since early 2019, this has included monthly volunteer visits and an ongoing relationship with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank in Collinwood.
Each month, Stephens looked forward to working alongside other volunteers and staff, getting to know people and listening to their perspectives and concerns. Prior to COVID-19, the food bank annually served 350,000 of our community’s most vulnerable residents including seniors, children and individuals with health issues — this number has increased exponentially since mid-March when the first drive through food pantry took place as shut-downs and school closures began to affect working families.
Stephens recalls that the food bank staff expected 500-600 families would be served within a two hour period of time, already a significant increase from their usual monthly distribution to 300 families. Instead, cars lined up for over a mile and volunteers spent 4.5 hours placing non-perishable food boxes and produce into the trunks of over 1,300 families. The warehouse service staging area was virtually empty by the time the last car pulled out of the driveway, and this is an image that has stayed with Stephens for nearly 6 months.
Last week the drive through pantry served 2,300 families. “What do you need from the County?” Stephens asked Greater Cleveland Food Bank president Kristin Warzocha last March, knowing the compounding effects of food insecurity on a community in crisis. Within days, Warzocha provided detailed information about the expected needs of their organization and Stephens immediately asked County Council and County Executive Armond Budish to support emergency legislation that would designate $200,000 to the Food Bank.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support provided by our partners at Cuyahoga County, in large part thanks to the tireless advocacy of Councilwoman Cheryl Stephens,” said Kimberly LoVano, Director of Advocacy & Public Education at the food bank. “The support provided by the County, in the form of CARES Act dollars, will allow us to respond to the unprecedented demand and put a dent in the growing level of food insecurity among children.”
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank partners with more than 1,000 programs and agencies in Northeast Ohio. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, or would like to support the food bank, you can visit greaterclevelandfoodbank.org where there is an interactive map of food pantry and hot meal sites. You can also call the Help Center, Monday – Friday from 7am – 6pm, at 216.738.2067 for information about food assistance.
To reach out to Councilwoman Cheryl Stephens directly, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (216) 698-2022.
Owner and managing editor of Good Cause Creative and WISH Cleveland. Writer. Nonprofit consultant. Social justice advocate. Longtime Euclid resident, mom, and a champion of equitable public education.