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A Nourishing Evolution

Mid-Ohio Food Collective responds to community needs in time of crisis—and beyond

Mid-Ohio Food Collective (MOFC) was founded in 1980 with the mission to feed hungry people in our community. Initially it was, in President and CEO Matt Habash’s words, like a “wholesaler suppling the retailers.” Its job was to find food and grocery products and distribute that to other 501 (c)(3) organizations who feed the hungry.

“We were the central warehouse that distributed food to the pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc.,” he explained.

What has transpired, particularly over the last decade, is the organization’s shift to focus on getting to know those they serve better. Its efforts today go beyond procuring and delivering food, focusing also on developing ways to create a hunger-free, healthier community.

“Our mission statement changed to ‘ending hunger one nourishing meal at a time and co-creating a community where everyone thrives.’ It was the second half of that statement that really was about, ‘Okay, we can feed you today, but we need to address the root causes of why you are hungry,’” Habash said.

The organization has 680 agency partners throughout Ohio, serving 20 counties in eastern and central Ohio. 2020 was a year unlike any other MOFC has seen, and the organization distributed what amounts to 170,000 meals a day, a 25–30 percent increase over the previous year.

“ We’ve never moved so much food as we did in 2020, and we will continue to move a lot of food for a long time.”


“As soon as the governor started talking about shutting down the Arnold Classic, we went into disaster plan mode,” Habash said. “We immediately went to buy food. Before some food banks had bought their first semi, we had bought 100. We didn’t have the money. I just said, ‘Do it. We’ll find the money.’”

Buying food wasn’t the only challenge MOFC had as the community dealt with the initial effects of COVID-19. The organization relies on the help of 13,000 volunteers a year. With more than half of volunteers coming from the corporate space, and older individuals who volunteer regularly at higher risk for COVID-19, the stay at-home order was a major hurdle. On March 23, 2020, the National Guard stepped in to help with the sorting, packing, and distribution of food—delivering meals to homeless shelters and seniors, and working at the pantries.

“They have been an invaluable resource for us,” Habash said. “We could not have done what we’ve done without the National Guard. There is no way it could have happened. They have been essential.”

MOFC worked with agency partners to shift the model from choice pantry, where customers chose their food, to packing food to put in the trunk of a car.

Photos courtesy of Mid-Ohio Food Collective

Another big change in 2020—the organization changed its name from Mid-Ohio Foodbank to Mid-Ohio Food Collective to better reflect the important overlap of programs and services.

“For us today, it’s called right place, right time, right food,” Habash said. “We’re rethinking everything we do from the lens of the hungry person. What do they need? It has to matter to the hungry person. That’s a shift from being the wholesaler who just provides food to agencies.”

MOFC’s Rooted in You campaign was launched in 2019 to support innovative and forward-thinking ways to focus on a healthy future as a collaborative. Habash sees the future rooted in its five key areas: the Foodbank, Farm, Farmacy, Kitchen, and Market.

“The reason we shifted our model is we started talking about creating markets, we began talking about a new kitchen strategy, all because we were building a ‘food is health’ strategy around everything we do,” Habash said. “How do we grow healthy food and teach people how to grow it? We started to realize that we have all these other assets but the focus was always on the foodbank because it was the biggest.”

In December, The Columbus Foundation announced a $1 million grant, payable over five years, to MOFC. The investment will support the organization’s comprehensive campaign priorities and build capacity for its operations.

“The Columbus Foundation’s investment is, from a dollar amount perspective, significant—but so
is the scope of the Rooted In You campaign,” said Dan A. Sharpe,
Vice President for Community Research and Grants Management at the Foundation. “Mid-Ohio Food Collective’s innovative approach to serving neighbors in need is compelling, and goes well beyond the old model of boxed surplus food distribution. The Foundation is investing to bring fresh food, greater efficiency, and nutrition education to those experiencing food insecurity.”

Sharpe added that the Foundation acknowledges all MOFC has done to shift its distribution model to
allow for greater empowerment and dignity for the customer—especially through the Mid-Ohio Market and the Farmacy concepts.

“We look forward to MOFC operationalizing this forward-thinking mission, to keep central Ohio moving in the right direction to end hunger in our community.”

Mid-Ohio Food Collective’s Five Key Areas

Mid-Ohio Foodbank

Established 1980

The core of the organization, it helps fresh, healthy food get to individuals and families in the counties it serves.

Mid-Ohio Farm

Established 2013

The core of the organization, it helps fresh, healthy food get to individuals and families in the counties it serves.

Mid-Ohio Farmacy

Established 2019

Bridging the gap between healthcare and access to nutritious food, this program allows healthcare providers to “prescribe” fresh food, which can be redeemed to get fresh food at pantry and market locations.

Mid-Ohio Kitchen

Established 2015

The kitchen produces healthy food for afterschool sites and for those experiencing homelessness. A new production kitchen is planned, which will increase the capabilities moving forward.

Mid-Ohio Market

Established 2019

A growing concept of a small market that offers free, fresh produce
and shelf-stable food along with opportunities to connect with additional social service resources.


Mid-Ohio Food Collective