Interact for Health

Q&A: Kurt Reiber, president and CEO, Freestore Foodbank

(Jan 30th, 2017)

Kurt Reiber is the president and CEO of the Freestore Foodbank, which provides meals to people dealing with food insecurity in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. The organization focuses on serving "foods to encourage" health, which are healthy alternatives to pre-packaged foods, so people with hypertension, diabetes or obesity can better manage their conditions. Reiber says the organization's goal is to help people stabilize their lives.

Interact for Health: Could you explain more about the Freestore Foodbank and its goals?

Kurt Reiber: The basic goal of the Freestore Foodbank is to feed the approximate 300,000 individuals dealing with food insecurity in the 20 counties in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio that we serve with healthy food. We are focused on what we call "foods to encourage," meaning we are looking to provide a healthier alternative to pre-packaged food items for the families we serve, about 67% of whom are dealing with some sort of medical issue like hypertension, diabetes or obesity. As such, about 47% of the foods we serve are perishable items like dairy products or fresh fruits and vegetables. We decreased the amount of canned and boxed goods we serve from 98% when we first started to 53% now because while they might be easier to prepare, they are not as healthy or nutritious.

Interact for Health: Could you describe a project that illustrates the effect of the Freestore Foodbank in the communities it serves?

Reiber: We just rolled out a new mobile market called the Healthy Harvest Mobile Market. What we're doing there is driving healthy items to food deserts and selling produce and some protein items at cost or below cost. We're currently serving seven food deserts on a regular, scheduled basis. We also acquired a refrigerated truck, which allows us to take a mobile pantry into northern Kentucky and provide healthy food alternatives to families that don't have access to a pantry to supplement their meals.

Interact for Health: What accomplishments of the foodbank are you most proud of?

Reiber: We really strive to get food to kids in our communities. We found that while younger kids will come to a food pantry or a meal provider during the summer months, older kids often don't attend because they don't want to be stigmatized. But with our Culinary Camp, which teaches young kids how to prepare meals, we bring in the older kids as our camp counselors. That way, they get to benefit from the food prepared, and they also help the younger kids learn.

Interact for Health: What about your work is most fulfilling?

Reiber: I enjoy seeing people who use our services and learn from our programs stabilize their personal lives, as well as those of their families. The skills learned through some of programs lets people give back to their communities.