September 2021

Mid-Ohio Food Collective launching upskilling app

Courtesy of Columbus Business First
By Hayleigh Colombo
September 30, 2021

Mid-Ohio Food Collective CEO Matt Habash wants to end hunger in Central Ohio. But he doesn’t see growing the food bank as the only way to do that.

He hopes to reduce the need for the food bank in the first place by addressing root causes of poverty.

“We’re not going to food bank our way out of this,” Habash told us. “We have to address the root causes, otherwise we’re going to get bigger and bigger and there’s no end in sight.”

The need in the community has increased due to the pandemic: More than 83,000 new families have received help from the food bank for the first time since March 2020.

Faced with that growing need, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, with the help of higher education partners across the region, has launched a new app designed to help people learn new skills and get better jobs, all while connecting them to social services and community resources they might not even be aware exist.

ReadySkill is a mobile platform that will help workers get access to free and reduced-cost higher education opportunities that will lead them to better-paying jobs, while also connecting them with social services.

The platform lets users enroll in the higher education credential programs, apply for subsidized childcare and get connected to the food bank, affordable high-speed internet, mental health services, healthcare, rental assistance, mentoring and more.

Partners in the platform include a wide swath of community players: Ohio State University, Columbus State Community College, Franklin University, Smart Columbus, the United Way of Central Ohio, Schmidt Futures, Kroger, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio, AT&T, Safelite, IGS Energy, Udacity, the Columbus Urban League, Feeding America, the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio and Jewish Family Service.

Habash said his organization is able to draw on its own data systems to build out the workforce platform. The app itself is the brainchild of Nick Davis, chief platform officer at the Mid-Ohio Food Collective.

The app aims to be a “further-evolved 411,” according to its creator, Nick Davis.

The app aims to be a “further-evolved 411,” according to its creator, Nick Davis.

Davis said connecting social services with education is a way to help make sure more people actually make it through the educational process and into self-sustaining jobs.

“We’re bringing to bear the coordination of these services,” he said. “We’ll feed you every week to make sure that you’re not facing a food barrier and can actually focus on your education and get through that program. Think of it as a further-evolved 411 for an individual to be matched to services.”

The first cohort of the program is launching this month, with funding rom HSBC Bank, Microsoft and Safelight. The four-month program will end with each participant earning an industry-recognized credential from Franklin University.

The goal is to eventually place people in living-wage jobs so they won’t need to use the food bank.

“We believe for us to help individuals in a concerted way, we have to understand the total picture so we can intervene much further upstream,” Davis said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email