Columbus Dispatch. April, 23, 2021.

Editorial: We can fight hunger together

There is probably never a great time to ask a community to shell out $6 million.

And right now, during a pandemic and all of the economic challenges that come with it, might seem like bad timing.

Thousands of central Ohio residents and business owners are struggling to maintain home and health in this difficult time.

And that’s actually part of the reason for Mid-Ohio Food Collective’s potentially game-changing ask.

“The need is now,” Steve Steinour, Huntington Bank’s chairman, president and

chief executive officer told the Dispatch Editorial Board.

He is right.

Hunger cannot wait, and neither can efforts to combat it.

The need has been described in scores of Columbus Dispatch articles over the years and a recent CBS “60 Minutes” segment showcasing the impact of COVID-19 on Columbus.

In 2020, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, based in Grove City, distributed roughly 75 million pounds of groceries to more than 600,000 people in 20 central and eastern Ohio counties. That marked a 50% increase above 2015.

During the pandemic – in one year – the collective served more than 60,000 new families, including 41,000 in Franklin County alone. Pre-pandemic it fed more than 250 families each day at the Foodbank’s onsite pantry. Now, 750 families get food each day.

We now have coronavirus vaccines, but a shot in the arm does not mean food in the bellies of those struggling to tread water financially. Mid-Ohio Food Collective CEO Matt Habash assures us that the need is not going away anytime soon.

This is where the $6 million request comes in.

As part of an effort chaired by Cindy and Kirt Walker, CEO of Nationwide; Donna and Nick Akins, CEO of American Electric Power and Steinour and his wife, Patti, the collective already has quietly raised $24 million over nine months toward its $30 million goal.

Twenty-four million! During a pandemic and economic downturn!

Through the “Rooted in You” campaign, Mid-Ohio hopes to destigmatize the need to seek free food and to make patrons feel more comfortable.

For starters, they will be treated like customers and have access to fresh food during times they can receive it. And pantries are now called markets.

Besides providing more substantiality for Mid-Ohio, the multifaceted plan includes:

Expanding the Mid-Ohio Market from two to 10

The collective has markets at Columbus State University at the HEART, a Christian based organization created by the Reynoldsburg Ministerial Association to address food insecurity in the community.

Mid-Ohio is seeking partners and are in negotiations to purchase land or space at eight other sites. The plan includes locations on the West, South, North and East sides.

Updates at Mid-Ohio Facility

The Foodbank’s pantry and kitchen in Grove City will be updated to create a production kitchen where nutritious, hot meals can be prepared for customers to take away. There also will be enhanced meeting space where nonprofits can collaborate.

Mid-Ohio Food Collective has launched a $30 million campaign called Rooted in You. Its 7-acre farm, Mid-Ohio on the Hilltop, is pictured.

More Mid-Ohio farm sites

Unused land around the community could be turned into urban farms to serve the community’s needs. Patterned partly after the 7-acre Mid-Ohio on the Hilltop farm on Wheatland Avenue, these urban garden spots would be used for growing fresh produce and for classes and events.

Use of a data and insights platform

The collective is using data to better serve and understand the needs of the community.

The request for $6 million in donations from the community is big, but so is the need and the generosity of central Ohioans.

Together, we can do it.

The leaders of the campaign hope to wrap up Mid-Ohio Foodbank’s largest campaign (the last one in 2008 was for $16 million for facilities) by this summer.

Mid-Ohio Food Collective’s goals are to re-imagine the approach to fighting hunger and to end hunger in central Ohio.

Chances are that Root in You and its $30 million goal won’t completely end hunger, but it is a point in the right direction.

More information can be found at


Youngstown Vindicator. April 25, 2021.

Editorial: City must recoup losses from fizzled Chill-Can project

Mae West, that sassy, brassy 20th century American actress and sex symbol best known for her pithy platitudes, let loose this one in her 1959 autobiography: “An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.”

She may as well have been talking today to Mitchell Joseph of the M.J. Joseph Development Corp. of California, owner of the much-ballyhooed Chill-Can Beverage and Technology Complex for which construction began five years ago on Youngstown’s East Side. After all, Joseph has been sky-high on promises, rock-bottom low on performance in recent years.

About five years ago amid much fanfare, Joseph announced grand plans for a sprawling $20 million research and manufacturing complex in Youngstown for his company’s self-chilling beverage can technology. He vowed to create several hundred jobs and rejuvenate a decaying neighborhood. To a city thirsting for cool and promising economic catalysts, Mitchell’s pitch struck a nerve. He even sweetened his deals with emotional accounts of his great-grandfather who had started the Star Beverage Co. on the East Side site a century earlier.

Understandably at the time, city leaders and many others in the Mahoning Valley — including this newspaper — bought into Joseph’s lofty can-do ambitions and promises hook, line and sinker. At the time, its legitimacy appeared solid when work began shortly after the groundbreaking.

Five years later, however, Joseph has little to show for himself except a slew of missed deadlines. He initially had said the project would cost about $20 million and be in full operation two years ago to produce the world’s only self-chilling beverage can.

At full employment, the Youngstown campus was to boast about 250 workers.

Five years later, the company has built three buildings on the campus site, which remain largely vacant and undeveloped, and has hired two people.

Frustration over the seemingly endless delays reached a boiling point last month. In late March, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and other city officials rightly put Joseph on notice that he had 60 days to fulfill his promises and hire a minimum of 150 workers, or legal action against the company would proceed.

In the four weeks since that ultimatum was issued, we’ve heard nary a peep from Joseph and seen no tangible action toward completing work at the East Side property. We’d love to believe that Joseph and his company will rise to the challenge, act expeditiously and make his dream a reality, but like city officials, we remain skeptical.

Though legal counsel for the Chill-Can company cites the COVID-19 pandemic as a major contributing factor for delays over the past year, that explanation fails to acknowledge that the original plans touted the complex would be in full operation in 2018 — more than a full year before the pandemic even reared its ugly head.

What’s more, the gloom surrounding the deflated development is compounded by losses in the millions of dollars that the city of Youngstown has suffered. Indeed the city bent over backward to assist the company in building and developing the campus. Among the incentives were $1.5 million given to Joseph in city water and wastewater funds, about $400,000 to take possession of 15 properties at and near the Chill-Can site and a 10-year, 75 percent real property tax abatement. The company already has received about four years’ worth of abatements, saving it about $125,000, according to city records.

Additionally, the project knocked down an entire neighborhood and left some lifelong East Side residents emotionally scarred and scurrying for new places to call home.

Collectively, those hefty financial and human costs the city invested brought forth paltry returns. Those diminishing returns also serve as clear grounds for taking Joseph to court to recoup losses if the company fails to meet the city’s hiring and construction demands by May 28.

As Youngstown Law Director Jeff Limbian put it earlier this month, “I think it is unlikely that you are going to see any of the benchmarks met nor anything of any consequence, certainly not in the next 60 days. So, I can picture we will be going to court.”

That looming courtroom battle is unfortunate. At best, the likely ill-fated project can serve as a lesson to city leaders to vet developers thoroughly and monitor progress more closely and frequently.

In the final analysis, they must heed the call of Mae West and insist that a pound of promises produces nothing short of a pound of performance.


Marietta Times. April 21, 2021.

Editorial: Unruly OSU students should be punished

Nighttime mobs of young people filling the streets, chanting, flipping over cars, generally being unruly and destructive. No, it is not the scene of one of last summer’s violent protests for social justice or a weekend preview to the possibility of violence in the wake of a verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the death of George Floyd. It is a bunch of entitled college kids at a party in Columbus.

According to reports, those who gathered at a party near the Ohio State University campus went beyond “wild” to out-of-control and criminal. Some of them loudly chanted “O-H, I-O” while egging on others to flip cars. Two students who were not part of the mob saw what was happening and checked on their parked vehicles, only to discover them trashed.

Senior Lauren Taras told another media outlet she felt at that point as though she and some friends needed to stick with her car to prevent more damage. She also said that, though the “party” began to get out of control at about 10:30 p.m., police did not arrive to clear the street until 3 a.m. At this writing, Columbus police had not yet responded to questions about their handling of the situation. To be fair, it is possible police did not have any patrols in the area and had not received a single call alerting them of what was going on; though that seems unlikely.

Now what? Will there be scanning of security camera footage to find those responsible for the property damage done by this mob? Will the owners of damaged property see any justice?

Will the community be as outraged by these vandals as they were by the vandals about which they screeched last summer?

Sadly, we probably know the answer to that question. Nevertheless, Ohio State officials and Columbus Police should do their best to punish anyone proven to be part of the weekend violence and destruction.


Cleveland Plain Dealer. April 23, 2021.

Editorial: Food Bank expansion comes at critical time, as local food insecurity explodes

More than three years ago, it was already evident to Greater Cleveland Food Bank CEO Kristin Warzocha and the Food Bank board that their seemingly capacious Cleveland warehouse and headquarters on South Waterloo Road, built in 2004, was no longer big enough for the need. Expansion planning began apace, driven by several factors, including insights into what causes food insecurity.

Additionally, a new focus on healthful, fresh produce, in partnership with Ohio farmers, meant the South Waterloo facility’s limited refrigeration was no longer sufficient, requiring offsite storage and onsite refrigeration units. And fast-rising food insecurity among the elderly in the six counties the Greater Cleveland Food Bank serves -- in Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Ashland and Richland counties -- threatened to outstrip the Food Bank’s modest kitchen’s ability to prepare hot meals for senior centers, “Meals on Wheels” and similar programs.

At the same time, Food Bank officials were seeing compelling evidence that hunger insecurity doesn’t happen in a vacuum: It is inextricably linked to other emergencies in a family’s life, tied to employment insecurity, housing insecurity and health care insecurity.

The answer: wraparound services to help Food Bank clients solve some of their other income, housing and health care needs. Providing a home for such services also became part of expansion planning.

Then COVID-19 hit. And suddenly, emergency food needs in Northeast Ohio exploded.

The Food Bank’s more than 300,000 usual food-insecure clients ballooned to more than 400,000, with about a fourth needing emergency food aid for the first time.

And with the past as a guide -- it took about five years after the 2008 Great Recession for local emergency food needs to return to pre-recession levels -- Warzocha recently told our editorial board that the Food Bank anticipates, similarly, that COVID-19 emergency food needs will be with us for years.

That has put the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s $40 million expansion plans into overdrive -- and lent greater urgency to fundraising efforts, still in a “quiet” phase, to pay for them.

There can be no doubt that the expansion is critically needed, not just to add kitchen and refrigeration capacity, but also to enable the Food Bank to turn its current offices and warehouse into a client-choice pantry and client service center.

Having an expanded on-site food pantry will help address local neighborhood hunger needs and also fill the gap for those relying on those Food Bank partner agencies staffed with volunteer help who might not be able to open many hours a week.

The client service center will be all about the wraparound services -- co-locating nonprofits that can assist Food Bank clients with applying for benefits to which they are entitled that can in themselves help keep hunger at bay, from public assistance, Medicaid and food stamps to jobless benefits and housing vouchers. Research by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank shows a strong correlation between rising local emergency food needs and loss of benefits.

Although the Food Bank’s fundraising is still in “quiet” phase, it’s already about one-fourth of the way toward its $40 million goal, according to spokeswoman Karen Pozna, who wrote in an email that the expansion itself is being handled in three phrases to ensure fundraising doesn’t fall short.

The 18-acre expansion site on Coit Road -- once home to a General Motors Fisher Body auto plant -- was donated by the DiGeronimo family, which acquired the 18 acres from Forest City Enterprises in 2015 for more than half a million dollars. That parcel had been part of 49 brownfield acres cleaned up by the state at a cost of millions before Forest City acquired the property,’s Robert Higgs reports.

Groundbreaking for the 198,000-square-foot facility -- about two miles southwest of the Food Bank’s current headquarters, on the edges of both the Glenville and Collinwood neighborhoods in Cleveland -- was April 14.

Pozna said the group’s fundraising targets break down roughly into $30 million from philanthropy and $10 million from public sources, including New Markets Tax Credits, but that the Food Bank remains hopeful that once CARES Act resources are divvied up locally, they may be able to pare back those goals a bit. New Markets Tax Credits offer a way to attract private capital to low-income areas by offering federal tax benefits.

Full disclosure: The Plain Dealer and consider the Food Bank to be such a vital service that both institutions support it with fundraising, food drives and volunteering. But everyone in the Cleveland area should applaud the years of efforts and prudent planning that have gone into this phased expansion of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

It will enable the Food Bank not just to fill hunger gaps but, through wraparound services, also help empower many families in Northeast Ohio to move forward with their lives and no longer face the terrible predicament of not knowing where their children’s next meal, or theirs, is going to come from.


Toledo Blade. April 22, 2021.

Editorial: A more accessible Toledo

When Toledo rolled out its ToleGo bike-share program in 2018, the bright yellow bikes docked around the city held great promise as a convenient and eco-friendly way to get people around town. One problem, though, was that none of the bicycles available were accessible for riders with disabilities.

That oversight is going to cost the city as Toledo now must rework ToleGo to include accessible bikes. And it’s the kind of issue that can be avoided if the city considers its proposed policies and programs will affect people with disabilities before it moves ahead with them.

A proposal from City Councilman Sam Melden, who also works as the director of strategic engagement at the Ability Center of Greater Toledo, would create a process through which the administration and city council would examine proposals to assess their inclusiveness.

Melden’s proposal is called the Five I’s of Disability Justice, which includes involvement, independence, inclusion, implementation, and intersectionality.

Melden says he understands that Toledo officials have not intentionally disregarded the impact of plans -- such as the ToleGo bike-share program -- on people with disabilities. But there is often a disconnect between elected leaders and the disabled community, he says. This would bridge that divide.

Leaders including Melden and Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, who recently created an office of disabilities in his administration, both have expressed hope that Toledo can become a leader in inclusiveness and accessibility.

Becoming a model city for disability-friendliness will mean becoming more conscientious about how the city functions from the perspective and needs of disabled people. Making sure the disabled community is adequately represented at the table -- on the city staff and in elected office -- when these functions are discussed will also be crucial.

Creating a formal process to consider the effect of city decisions on the disabled community as a routine part of planning is a good place to start.