Ellie Gonso, For The Miami Student

The relationship between Butler County’s Department of Jobs and Family Services (JFS) and Shared Harvest Food Bank has cultivated for more than five years through various programs like the “Food Stamp Program” and others that aid residents of Butler County.

Once again, Shared Harvest and JFS are working together through the Ohio Benefit Bank Program (OBB), which improves the efficiency and ease with which individuals can apply for tax credits and public benefits. These benefits include health care coverage, childcare subsidies, Medicaid and food stamps, to name a few.

Through this program, outreach workers are provided laptops and wireless cards at food pantries, which enable them to easily file applications and send the information to JFS. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) outreach coordinator, Gloria Bateman, is one of the three Shared Harvest employees who travel to the food pantries.

“Since the partnership, people can register with us at the pantries, which only takes about 15 to 20 minutes,” Bateman said.

Shared Harvest is a food bank that collects, transports and distributes food to more than 120 soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters across five counties in Ohio.

The organization distributes an average of more than 10 million pounds of groceries every year through their food banking programs, according to their Web site, http://www.sharedharvest.org.

Some of their programs include Feeding America, the Ohio Food Purchase Program and the Food Bank Market Program.

Tina Osso, executive director of Shared Harvest, hopes to file 700 new applications per year.

“Last year we filed about 610 applications, which generated about $1.6 million in food stamp benefits,” Osso said.

The Butler County JFS works with organizations like Shared Harvest in order to provide support for citizens in need. The department offers benefits, job opportunities, childcare services and other services to benefit the community.

Shared Harvest’s outreach workers assist individuals in applying for benefits at the food pantries, rather than having them travel to the JFS office.

“It has improved the number of clients applying for food stamps because they feel more comfortable and don’t have to travel and wait at the JFS office for hours,” Bateman said.

SNAP outreach workers offer benefit registration services at pantries such as the Open Door Food Pantry, Oxford Community Center, Lebanon Food Pantry Tri-County Assembly of God and Lighthouse Food Pantry.

Miami University sophomore Laura Swan is happy to hear about the efforts between JFS and Shared Harvest.

“It’s great to see a program that helps people register for benefits,” she said. “I’m excited to see even more positive effects it will continue to have on the community.”