Churches Active in Northside (CAIN) is an oasis in the food desert that is Cincinnati’s neighborhood of Northside. It is building community and extending caring to neighbors in need of food, shelter and other essentials and living out its calling to love God and neighbor.

In Greater Cincinnati, poverty and food insecurity have serious negative public health consequences for the physical and mental health of residents, especially the vulnerable populations of children, pregnant women and seniors. Neighborhoods are a key determinant of health. Not having enough food is a problem compounded by not having access to healthy food. Since September 2013, the 45223 area is considered a food desert because there is no grocery store. The persistence of food deserts triggers a sequence of negative outcomes for residents of these underserved communities. These include increased incidence of obesity and diabetes among children and adults, followed ultimately by higher mortality rates. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2009)

CAIN is committed to increasing food access and providing nutrient-dense food to Northside residents who are food insecure. Its award-winning Rainbow Choice Food Pantry is the largest provider of fresh produce in the neighborhood. Thanks to strong Episcopal support and partnership, CAIN is a local leader in the quest to bring healthy food for all in the following ways:

• St. Philip’s, Cincinnati (now closed) provided CAIN its own facility centrally located on Hamilton Avenue – Northside’s “Main Street”

PRODUCEPANTRYSt. Timothy’s, Cincinnati, helped with in-kind supplies and people-power to establish the Choice Pantry. The pantry adopted the “Rainbow of Colors” system developed by the Ohio State University Extension, which arranges shelf items to educate and encourage pantry guests about healthy food choices.

• An on-site garden is harvested for pantry guests.

• Guests receive take-home container gardens of tomato and peppers each Spring.

• CAIN’s first display refrigerator was funded by an Episcopal Appalachian Ministries grant

• CAIN’s Phil’s Place is a free community weekly dinner that provides food, fosters a sense of belonging and builds community for 80 people a week. Christ Church Glendale, Church of Our Savior and St. Timothy’s have served and provided many meals to Phil’s Place.

• The Northside Farmers Market (NFM) was one of the first neighborhood markets with SNAP (food stamp) acceptance and is a leader in the double-up incentive “Produce Perks” program. (northsidefm.org)

another• NFM shoppers and vendors share “Another for a Neighbor” and donate items that are made available the next day for families in need.

• Northside is striving to open a full-service cooperative grocery, Apple Street Market. CAIN has enrolled low-income households as inaugural members by registering and processing the subsidized share memberships for nearly 200 households to date.

Episcopal Community Services Foundation funding has helped each year along the way.

• A nutrition demonstration and sampling area in the pantry are continually being improved and refined.

• Last year, CAIN launched a kitchen item section in the pantry so families can receive needed utensils and equipment to encourage cooking.

Calvary, Clifton and Christ Church Cathedral are member churches of CAIN and support with board leadership, funding and volunteers.

Long-time volunteer and produce champion Karl Miller says, “Best of all we see our guests eagerly choosing from a wide selection of fresh produce. We hear lively discussions about the best way of preparing yellow squash, greens, eggplant, etc. Previously unfamiliar vegetables and fruits are sought after. A lot of learning is going on. Times are tough, but the smiles I see at CAIN are like the happy ending to a fairy tale.”

Episcopal roots run deep in Northside and continue to blossom in many ways. To learn more about CAIN, visit www.cainministry.org.

MiMi Chamberlin is the Executive Director of CAIN. Contact her at director@cainministry.org