Earlier this year, the federal government ended a three-year program that had temporarily boosted the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). These extra monthly payments helped families access healthy food during the pandemic.  

The city estimated that one in three residents, or about 114,000 Clevelanders, were affected by the cut in the program. For Cleveland and Cuyahoga County households that rely on SNAP, that’s about $95 in monthly benefits lost. County officials estimate that collectively $23 million in benefits will be lost per month. 

Coupled with inflation, these cuts are forcing residents to choose between food and other necessities. In a recent survey by the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, clients said: 

  • 68% had to choose between paying for food and transportation 
  • 66% had to choose between food and utility payments 
  • 55% had to choose between food and medicine/healthcare 

The survey also found that only 5% of SNAP recipients said their current benefits lasted a full month.

In April 2023, the City of Cleveland partnered with Greater Cleveland Food Bank and Cuyahoga County Metropolitan Housing Authority to provide free food distribution and produce giveaways for residents who were affected by the SNAP cuts.  

Hunger is a rising public health issue in the city. Health Reporter Candice Wilder took some time to report and respond to your questions: 

How often are these food giveaways held? 

The City of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, the Cuyahoga County Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Cleveland Department of Public Health are hosting food distributions five times a month in the parking lots of certain city recreation centers. The city food giveaways will last throughout the summer. 

(See a complete schedule here.) 

What do I need to bring to the food giveaways? 

All you need is a photo ID or proof of residency to be registered in the Greater Cleveland Food Bank system. Food and produce will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. 

I am homebound. Could I get food delivered? 

Yes. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County residents who are homebound can call the Greater Cleveland Food Bank Help Center at 216-738-2067. Once you hear the greeting message press the number one. A representative will answer and then ask you some questions to see if you qualify. The Help Center is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. Callers must complete the screening process to determine eligibility. 

How can I qualify for SNAP benefits and other federal assistance programs? 

For individuals in need of food or assistance in applying for SNAP, Medicaid and other critical resources, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s Help Center is the best place to start.

Do these food giveaways disqualify me from the food bank’s Muni Lot drive-through lot program? 

No. The City of Cleveland said these food distributions complement other distribution and food pantry programs across the city. 

Will they turn me away if I don’t arrive in a car?

No. Each location has a designated spot for residents who walk up. You can find a food bank representative or volunteer who can assist you. 

Are there food or meal programs for children this summer? 

Yes. The Cleveland Public Library partnered with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank to host the Summer Meals program at 27 library branches to provide free lunch for all children under the age of 18. The meals will be provided Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more information, visit cpl.org or call your nearest library branch

Are there any free produce or food distributions near Slavic Village? 

The Salvation Army in Cleveland’s Miles Park neighborhood hosts monthly free produce giveaways. The next distribution will be at 10 a.m. June 23. You must bring proof of residency.  

What about the West Side? 

The Centers for Family and Children and Circle Health Services also host free produce markets at their Gordon Square location, 5290 Detroit Ave., from 12 to 2 p.m. The next distribution is July 13. To learn more, visit the health center’s website

(See more West Side locations here.) 

Any food programs outside of Cleveland? How about Euclid? 

Yes. The Greater Cleveland Food Bank offers 14 hunger relief programs in six counties. You can check out the nearest program on their website. 

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank also has Euclid Neighborhood Choice Pantry, which lets individuals shop for items most attractive to their household. All sites offer a “proxy” process where individuals can pick up food items on behalf of someone in need. 

Any individual who receives food must fall below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, which is approximately $36,000 in annual income for a family of three. They can also access the food relief and pantry programs within the food bank’s six counties. Clients should have the following information:

  • Income of head of household 
  • Address
  • Number of people living in the residence

How can I check my SNAP benefits to see how much money I have on my card? 

The city continues to encourage residents who receive SNAP benefits to check their benefits amount by calling the Ohio Direction Card customer service center at 1-866-386-3071 or by visiting the self-service portal at ssp.benefits.ohio.gov. 

Cleveland pop up free food giveaway schedule: 

  • Collinwood Neighborhood Resource & Recreation Center (16300 Lakeshore Blvd.) on the first Wednesday of each month from 3 to 6 p.m. 
  • Michael Zone Neighborhood Resource & Recreation Center (6301 Lorain Ave.) on the third Monday of each month from 3 to 6 p.m. 
  •  East 59th  St. & Haltnorth Ave. (in the parking lot across from the Boys & Girls Club) from 2 to 4 p.m. on the second Friday of each month. 
  • J. Glen Smith Health Center (11100 St. Clair Ave.) on the second Tuesday of the month.
  • Thomas McCafferty Health Center (4242 Lorain Ave.) on the third Wednesday of each month.

For more information about SNAP, which is administered by Health and Human Services of Cuyahoga County, visit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (cuyahogacounty.us)

Health Reporter (she/her)
Candice, a Cleveland Documenter since 2020, has been a freelance writer whose reporting and digital media work have appeared in The Daily Beast, VICE, Cleveland Magazine and elsewhere. She has written about health, equity and social justice.