Cleveland Foodbank cuts ribbon on new help center to aid low-income families

New call center at Foodbank more than SNAP help

CLEVELAND - Employees and volunteers at the Cleveland Foodbank's distribution center packed boxes of food and shuttled pallets of drinks to awaiting delivery trucks on Tuesday. Those trucks will soon travel to the more than 600 area satellite locations.

The Cleveland Foodbank announced the official opening of their new help center; a call center with specialists trained to answer a myriad of questions in an effort to expedite the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program application process for low-income families. It will also help those whose only option used to be waiting wait in long lines just to apply for assistance at Cuyahoga County's Jobs and Family Services.

"What the help center does is food-stamp outreach and we also receive calls here. We have a staff that goes out to meet with people wherever they are, to sign them up for SNAP, which is the food stamp program," said Anne Goodman, Cleveland Foodbank President and CEO. "We also have a call center that receives calls from people who are in need but can't get to the Department of Jobs and Family Services or anywhere to apply for food stamps."

"It's different in that we used to just distribute food, but now we both distribute food and do food stamp outreach," Goodman said.

Formerly in the corporate world as an executive assistant, Rashana Jones found herself dealing with the hunger of a young son. She became frustrated by a process that can now be done over the phone with the new help center.

"It was much more of a relief, or more easy to come here, instead of going downtown. It was a lot better. I was also told about the tax preparation, had that done here. So they have a lot of resources that you can utilize and it's right here in the community," Jones said.

Broadview Heights also has a food bank, but found it couldn't handle the need in that community. Director of Human Services in Broadview Heights Amy Washabaugh was elated Tuesday after a 10 a.m. news conference preceding the ribbon cutting of the new center.

Washabaugh and Broadview Heights Mayor Samuel J. Alai joined in the proceedings as partners to the help center.

"In Broadview Heights, we have 385 families that do receive food assistance, food stamps, serving 784 individuals," Washabaugh said. "They're really struggling and they need help."

"It's amazing when you have somebody look at you and say ‘I don't have to cut my medication in half anymore', or when a mom comes in and looks at the daughter and says ‘We don't have to eat hot dogs tonight, honey.' It's an amazing feeling to help other people," Washabaugh said.

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