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Providing new ways to inspire healthy eating

The work of Best Food Forward is communal by design. The club’s members pool their buying power to drive down the cost of fresh produce and dry goods like beans and grains. Then the students who run the organization meet those members in person every week, hand-delivering the food with smiles and suggestions for what to cook.

So, when Ohio State first delayed and then canceled a return to campus after spring break, Best Food Forward’s leaders were momentarily stumped.

“The whole month of March, I was so stressed out about, what can I do with the resources I have to make a difference while still maintaining safe distances? What can we do in a timely manner to help students now?” said Alex Bielecki, a third-year operations management and actuarial science major and the club’s chief operating officer.

COVID-19 had also changed the needs of club members, some of whom needed Best Food Forward more than ever. “We thought our next best option would be to give people money for groceries,” Bielecki said. With money they’d saved in a fund, the club began distributing $20 in grocery funding to registered participants.


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Christina Allen, the organization’s chief chief growth officer and the person responsible for fundraising and partnerships, is overseeing the gift card program. Best Food Forward promoted it mostly to its existing buyer base, but a bump in requests in April suggested word was getting out. “Most of the people who apply for this weren’t food-insecure before this crisis. We’re serving a new population,” said Allen, a third-year student majoring in human nutrition and international studies.

Realizing it’s one thing to have food and another to know what to do with it, student leaders have been posting pantry-staple recipes like overnight oats and black bean hummus on their @bestfoodforward_osu Instagram channel.

“Education has always been a big part of our mission,” said Allison Swanka, chief outreach officer and a fourth-year environmental science major. “So we went online and started doing cooking demos. Our nutrition team is coming up with great recipes.”

What will Best Food Forward look like when the fall semester begins? The students don’t know, but they’ve already demonstrated they can live by their own name. “Our organization is pretty young. This is year four, and we’ve changed our model so many times,” Allen said. “I think we’re very adaptable to change.”

How to help

Best Food Forward hopes to extend its grocery gift-card program into the summer semester.

A new fund had raised nearly $900 by early May — enough to fuel the program for a couple of weeks — and is still accepting donations.

The club is also accepting new participants. If you are an Ohio State community member in need of food assistance, visit bestfoodforward.org to enroll. Participants will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis beginning 11 a.m. every Sunday morning.

Published: May 5, 2020


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