Monday, February 9, 2015

The “WHY” of the Hunger Network

Featured blog from the desk of Steven Vaccaro, Development Intern

Every day at 12 and 5, I go to the Baldwin Wallace Student Union for lunch and dinner.  Some days are better than others, but usually I find myself wondering what the meals would be like somewhere else.  Regardless of what I am eating, being around my friends at these hours and enjoying the time we have together is what I am most thankful for.  The Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland provides this moment for friends and families around the Greater Cleveland Area.

This past week I was able to see firsthand the “why” of the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland.  Many times I often find myself becoming so concerned with administrative work where I begin to forget the real reason why I am doing it.  The Hunger Network is able to provide 60,000 meals a month, but what it provides with that meal is so much more. It provides a sense of community for everyone involved.

While volunteering at Community Corner, a hunger center in the Cleveland area, I was able to shadow Raul, a father who is about to graduate from the University of Akron with a degree in Business Administration, while also working as a staff member at the center.  At the site, Raul greeted everyone who walked through the door.  I could tell that his simple acts of personal communication were just as powerful as the food itself.  As I learned more about Raul, I began to get the feeling that over his three years at Community Corner, he has learned just as much as I have in any of my classes. In college, it is often easy to get consumed by difficult classes and over-involvement; Raul clearly mastered this balance. As a passionate father, motivational leader, driven manager, and, most importantly, a friend, Raul leads by example, and he is someone that I strive to model. He is a prime example of the “why” of the Hunger Network, he does much more than help coordinate business at the hunger center, he fosters a sense of community that brings joy and creates happiness.

Getting to spend the afternoon in someone else’s shoes helped me see my life in another light.  Many times I find myself “sleep walking” through my day going through my normal routine. It is easy to get into this pattern and, as a college student, my schedule is very tight, with little room for free time.  With the rest of my last semester ahead of me, I plan on taking time to treasure my supportive surrounding community, and hopefully help others, like the Hunger Network has done to thousands in the Greater Cleveland Area.

Friday, January 30, 2015

United We BrunchED

On Saturday, Cleveland gathered for a first-time event hosted by Cleveland Scene Magazine. Over 1,000 people attended the inaugural United We Brunch, presented by Hillcrest Foodservice, in support of the Hunger Network – and brunch, did they ever! Held at the historic and newly-renovated, 5th Street Arcade, the sold out crowd enjoyed bites of brunch favorites from restaurants across the city.

Tasty treats were provided from over 40 restaurants such as Urban Farmer, TownHall, Barrio, Grovewood Tavern, and the new Adega located in The 9 Hotel. The food was top-notch as many snuck back for seconds as they strolled through the Downtown venue.

No brunch is complete without cocktails! The event partnered with Tito’s Vodka and hosted a bar featuring Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas for guests to sip on as a DJ spun today’s top music. In addition to the delicious brunch food, there were other tables set up by local companies, such as The Art Box, Fusion Inc. Salon & Day Spa, On Point Promotions t-shirt sales and of course, the Hunger Network!

It was an honor to be part of this very Cleveland-event, and we are so glad to hear that everyone enjoyed the event. Requests are already in for a repeat – stay tuned for more info!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Food Is the True Health Care

Fact: how you treat food is how you treat your health.

Unfortunately for so many of our Hunger Center clients, the resources that are required to maintain healthy diet and lifestyle are lacking.  This is where the Hunger Network’s Stay Well Project has flourished.  Every month, the Stay Well Project executes food demonstrations and distribute simple recipes to clients. These recipes use readily available, inexpensive, healthful foods to show our clients that, even on a budget, it is possible to allow food to serve as medicine. 

[Cheri Collier, RD, Diabetes Partnership of Greater Cleveland, holds interactive discussion with Hunger Center clients about healthy diet]

January’s Stay Well program topic is: Healthy New Years.  We have compiled a recipe and food demonstration that costs only $5 to feed a family of four. These specific recipes feature a nutritiously complete, whole-grain, delicious meal using only items found at the “Dollar Store.”  In all honestly, more often than not, a “Dollar Store” is the only nearby location to purchase foods for our food insecure clients.  The Hunger Network recently hired a Dietetics Intern, Brett Jones; and under the guidance of Resident Dietitians (RDs), Jones prepares simple recipes in front of our clients to show them just how easy it can be to cook healthy, home-cooked meals with the resources available. 

The Stay Well Project is lucky to work with a host of community partners that assist in promoting the use as food as medicine.  The Diabetes Partnership of Greater Cleveland (DPGC), for example, often sends RDs to our events to guide clients with dietary choices.  Stay Well is also working with the DPGC and Case Western Reserve University to implement a long-term dietary education course for clients that have been identified as pre-diabetic or diabetic.  This is a new and exciting opportunity to give Hunger Network clients more opportunities and resources to change their lifestyles…and changing their lifestyle can prevent/manage diabetes!

Another partnership we are very excited about is with VitaMix, who recently donated a brand new food processing machine to our program to assist us with food demonstrations.  This generous gift will prove to be invaluable in educating our clients onsite in how to prepare healthy smoothies, sauces, etc. on a budget. 

We are so grateful to all of our community partners, our hunger center managers and volunteers who work tirelessly to reduce hunger and poverty. We are thankful that our clients faithfully attend Stay Well events monthly, and engage with the growing Stay Well Project team. In addition to Jones, Briana Fair also joins the team as an intern who will assist in the implementation of programming, evaluation and follow-up.  Without the help of so many individuals, organizations, institutions, etc., we would not easily see the amount of success that the Hunger Network’s Stay Well Project has seen in such a short time.  Thank you to everyone who supports our cause in helping people change their diet and lifestyle choices to become and STAY WELL!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Biking For A Cause

Bike Cleveland, a local nonprofit organization that specializes in promoting cycling activities and events all over our beloved city, just donated thousands of dollars worth of donations in food and money to the Hunger Network!  Cranksgiving is their annual event that is held at different venues all over our city.  Participants bring their bikes and cycle to different grocery stores in order to purchase food to donate to Hunger Network pantries for the holidays.  This is the second year in a row that this remarkable event has donated the proceeds of this event to our organization!

This year’s Cranksgiving took place at the Beachland Ballroom on November 22; the Hunger Network was there to spread awareness about our mission to help fight hunger and also the linkage of hunger to health, which is the focus of our organization’s Stay Well Project. As you may know, Stay Well works toward reducing the chronic illnesses that result from food deserts (or areas without a grocery store within a half-mile.) for clients of the Hunger Network.

To help illustrate what few options are available to people without transportation or access to grocery stores, Stay Well Project Coordinator Sara Continenza led the group to a near-by grocery store. This small convenience store had a very limited, in size and product selection, produce section and almost no healthy food (photo below). These limited resources make it incredibly difficult for neighbors in these communities to access healthy food  - this, in turn, leads to poor health outcomes for these folks. This hands on experience helped Cranksgiving participants to truly understand the need in our community and the substantial help they were offering on that day.

The Hunger Network has 98 hunger centers throughout Cuyahoga County. Two of our pantries, CACCI and CACCII, were the lucky recipients of this year’s Cranksgiving donations. However, all of our centers need your help as this is the busiest time of year. The need is the highest throughout the months of November and December, increasing from serving 60,000 people per month, to over 75,000 in our pantries alone. With the need being high, and our resources being stressed to the limit, no donation is too small.

Cranksigiving was a tremendous food and fund drive that will make a difference to so many in right here in Cuyahoga County. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A New Tradition of Generosity

‘Tis the season! With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s full force towards celebrations, such as Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanza. It’s a time we gather with loved ones and show them how much we care by giving gifts in all shapes and sizes.

With the season of giving gifts upon us, our society has created two exciting days to shop for those gifts: Black Friday & Cyber Monday. We are all familiar with these “holidays,” and so are our credit cards. But, NOW there is a new holiday and it’s simple to celebrate – it’s #GivingTuesday!

You can learn more about #GivingTuesday here -

But really, the idea is easy – simply donate and be part of the global effort dedicated to giving back on Tuesday, Dec. 2nd. Today, the world unites for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.
The Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland is proud to have a partner for such an important day. Mr. Hero Restaurants is not only a dedicated supporter of the Hunger Network, but they taken this new holiday #GivingTuesday a step further…if you give to us, they give to you! What could be better than that?!

Today, be a Hunger HERO by making a donation of at least $10 at and receive a coupon for a FREE 7” sandwich from your favorite sandwich shop, Mr. Hero Restaurants. The first 100 donors of a minimum donation of $10 will receive this generous perk of giving on #GivingTuesday.
Mr. Hero Restaurants’ generosity is contagious; we are so excited to spread the word on their substantial support, but need your help.

  • Step #1: Visit and make a donation of at least $10.
  • Step #2: Post on social media…share on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Use the hashtag #GivingTuesday and #HungerHero and tag @HungerNetworkGC
  • Step #3: Patiently wait for your Mr. Hero 7” sandwich coupon to arrive in the mail….and ENJOY!
This holiday season, we will all give so many wonderful gifts to those we love. But, today give a gift of food. Join the global movement that is #GivingTuesday and donate at We look forward to celebrating with you and Mr. Hero!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Happy National Eating Healthy Day, Cleveland!

The Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland is proud to be participating in yet another healthy eating campaign!  The American Heart Association's National Eating Healthy Day is today - Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Today, Americans are encouraged to commit to healthier eating and we are no difference at the HNGC. In fact, the Stay Well Project hosted an event at Faith Baptist Church and Wellness Center this afternoon. We discussed mental wellness, our topic of the month along with our preventative health screenings and medical navigation that we implement at every health event thanks to our amazing community partners. In addition to these activities, we also distributed foods packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids and lots of recipes that incorporate brain-healthy nutrients. 

In the Stay Well Project, we are bridging the gap between hunger and health.  By emphasizing diet and lifestyle as the primary vehicle for physical, mental and emotional wellness, we are getting people to become and stay well!  We are proud to support national initiatives and events that further promote that goal. 

It’s not to late to participate in today’s healthy eating campaign; for more information on National Eating Healthy Day, please visit

Monday, October 13, 2014

Stay Well Celebrates Food Day!

National Food Day is October 24th 2014.  This day is designed to “resolve to make changes in our own diets and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level”. One major focus of this year’s Food Day is on equitable food access, something the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland advocates for every day right here in Cuyahoga County.

To celebrate this event, the Hunger Network, in partnership with the Healthy Cleveland 2.0 Initiative of Cleveland City Council, will be hosting special food demonstration at our monthly Stay Well Project event. Clients will gather at the Harvard Community Services Center, one of the Hunger Network’s 11 hunger centers selected to participate in Stay Well.  Since October is Cold and Flu month for Stay Well, we will have special flu-friendly food items that are affordable, easy to make, and antioxidant-rich.  Tiffani Gilbert from Cutting Board Academy will be leading these demonstrations. 

The Stay Well Project, in partnership with University Hospitals Department of Family Medicine and supported by the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, always strives to take a diet and lifestyle approach to the prevention/management of disease, so this event is a great fit for us!  This event will also include our traditional health screenings (thanks to Tri-C School of Physician Assistants and Ohio Northern University School of Pharmacy), including blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index and body fat percentage screenings, and Walgreens will be supplying free flu shots to anyone interested in receiving one. 

The Stay Well Project is free and open to all!  More information can be found here

Event Details:
Where: Harvard Community Services Center, 18240 Harvard Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio
When: From 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM