Montgomery County, Ohio food equity coalition drafts plan to address local food insecurity
The Montgomery County Food Equity Coalition is a countywide initiative established in 2019. The group, which is managed by Public Health Dayton-Montgomery County, recently published its plan to address food insecurity.
Around five zip codes in Montgomery County, Ohio are defined as areas lacking access to healthy and affordable food. In its 2021 annual report, the coalition estimated about 14% of Montgomery County residents were food insecure.
Through the food equity coalition, the county wants to improve that.
In its 2023-2024 plan, it calls for lobbying local policymakers for money to increase food security or developing a campaign to reduce stigma around receiving food from a pantry.
Tif Huber, the lead for the food equity coalition, explained the idea behind the coalition is to connect residents and nonprofits with local resources while addressing health issues related to food.
“The concept of having this food equity coalition is to make sure that people understand that connection to food and health, but also because creating an equitable opportunity for people to have food and not just any food, but healthy food is really going to help us push the needle on reducing health disparities.” Huber said.
amaha sellassie, one of the co-founders and board chair of the Gem City Market, said he appreciates local policymakers getting more involved. But he wishes to see more community residents invited to the table to talk solutions too.
“One of the huge pieces is just getting more people engaged and involved in self-determining what the access looks like in the future. That we're basing policy and transformation on their lived experience instead of, you know, doing things for the community that we’re doing things with the community,” sellassie said.
sellassie points to the Gem City Market in West Dayton as an example when the community is involved in the process of addressing an issue in their community. He admitted addressing food inequity is not something that has one solution — it can lead to solutions for more broader issues in a community.
“Food access is the canary in the coal mine. Because if you have a community with high levels of food insecurity, you have multiple other things happening at the same time,” sellassie said. “Food is like the easiest way sometimes to be able to start having these conversations to addressing the larger issues”
For now, the county is looking at collecting data to better understand the gaps of food access locally. The goal is to increase food access by the end of 2024.
Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Support for WYSO's reporting on food and food insecurity in the Miami Valley comes from the CareSource Foundation.