In Montgomery County, 18.5 percent of residents -- close to one in every five people – live in poverty, according to The Ohio Poverty Report released in February.
About 1.7 million Ohioans last year received benefits through SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), but according to a report released in 2014 by the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, nearly half the households receiving those benefits deplete their monthly allotment within the first two weeks.
That means many people rely on food agencies to keep their families from going hungry. The Foodbank, Inc., serves as the main source of hunger relief in Montgomery, Greene and Preble counties.
Someone at the epicenter of fighting area hunger is Michelle Riley, the Chief Executive Officer of the Foodbank.
Here, meet Michelle Riley, our Daytonian of the Week.
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What do you do?
Michelle Riley: My colleagues and I operate/run a warehouse. Last year, we distributed more than 9 million pounds of food to 106 other non-profits that feed the hungry. As the team leader of The Foodbank, my primary job is maintaining a positive culture at The Foodbank where everyone can be successful and raising the funds necessary to make sure everyone has the tools they need to do their job.
How did you get involved with the Foodbank?
Riley: I grew up on the East end of Dayton. At one time, four generations were living in our home that was less than 1,000 square feet. Poverty is unacceptable at the rate we have it today. Prior to coming to The Foodbank, I was the Chief Operating Officer at the YWCA. We were working on issues like domestic violence, homelessness and mental health issues. Chief Operating Officer is not the Chief Executive Officer. The roles are very different. I knew that if I wanted to effect real change and create an environment with a vision and mission that was important to me, one that I could lead, I had to switch seats.
What was the most challenging part of that?
Riley: Building a fantastic team takes work. I had to make changes that are never easy. We are committed to hiring individuals from our lines. We are committed to reentry work. Those individuals come with barriers that are often hard to overcome. As a result, we often have a higher turnover rate during our probation period. Once someone is trained the results are amazing but the journey can be difficult.
How did you push through the challenge?
Riley: We adhere to our philosophy. People are our greatest assets, customer service comes first, we are warehouse focused and we Kaizen for continuous improvement. We throw all of our team resources and time towards accomplishing that philosophy. Nobody wants to work every day. But since most of us have no other choice, if we want to provide for our families, why not make the work place and environment one that people really want to come to?
What else are you passionate about?
Riley: Friends, billiards, poker, bourbon, writing, and photography. Oh, and I really like napping.
What inspires you about Dayton?
Riley: I was born in Dayton. Everything inspires me about Dayton. I have traveled the world and still I choose Dayton. It is a great pond to fish in. Dayton is my never-ending project.
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
Riley: I would put a spell on all Dayton residents that only allowed them to talk positive about this area. In this context, we are our own worst enemies. If I could bring one thing, it would be continuous economic development around the water, from one end of Dayton to the other.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
Riley: Depends on who's leading the charge.
If you could speak to prospective presidential candidates on behalf of those living in poverty, what would you say?
Riley: Raise the minimum wage. That would eliminate a lot of the people needing assistance.