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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Food Fight Between Hunger Network and Foodbank Over For Now

Posted By on Tue, Apr 26, 2011 at 9:47 AM

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An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated both groups received money from local foundations. In fact, the Hunger Network receives no money from foundations. The text has been changed to reflect the correction.

Northeast Ohio has two very different emergency food distribution agencies: the Hunger Network, which runs handout centers from predominantly black churches; and the Foodbank, the multimillion-dollar warehouse for distribution. They are united in that they 1) both want to keep Cleveland bellies full and 2) they can’t stand one another.

Last summer, the fight between the two area nonprofits spilled into the pages of this rag. Under pressure from the city’s foundations and county government, the warring parties were asked to come up with ways to collaborate. Instead of agreement, they locked heads. The Network said the Foodbank was trying to swallow it whole; the Foodbank said the Network was being stubborn.

At the time, the county commissioners opted to cut off the Network’s funding until the groups found a solution, thus dangling a carrot that successfully pissed everybody off even more.

It took new County Exec Ed FitzGerald to get the two parties to play nicely. Shortly after taking office, he forced both sides into mediation. In a recently-struck agreement, the two groups will remain separate, each with its own staff, board, and mission. The Hunger Network’s money will go directly to the Foodbank, but the Network will control how the funds are handled. Further gripes go straight to the county. And poor people still get fed.

“I think this is a win for both groups, but most importantly for the community,” says Jeffrey Crossman, an attorney on the Hunger Network’s board.

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