Feeding Indiana's Hungry

Indiana's State Association of Food Banks

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Indiana Farmers Humbly Helping Neighbors

Indiana farmers are doing their part to help keep people from going hungry during the holidays. Credit: pippalou/morguefile

Indiana farmers are doing their part to help keep people from going hungry during the holidays. Credit: pippalou/morguefile

November 25, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS – A big Thanksgiving dinner isn’t always possible for the one in six Indiana residents who struggle with hunger. Farmers around the state are doing their part to help keep Hoosiers from going hungry during the holidays and year-round.

Indiana is home to nearly 60,000 farms, and Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, said that every producer she has met is providing for the less fortunate.

“When I explain what our organization does and what food banks do, and how many Hoosiers we’re feeding,” she said, “it’s just heartwarming that, two to one, they’re working to do something to help people who are at risk of hunger.”

The state’s network of food pantries and meal service programs provide food for slightly more than 1 million people each year. Feeding Indiana’s Hungry works with farm organizations including the Indiana Pork Producers, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana’s Family of Farmers and the Indiana Vegetable Growers’ Association to distribute donations.

Mike Smolek, who raises pigs in White County and donates meat from about 30 animals each year to a local food pantry, said he feels that farmers typically are not looking for recognition.

“We were raised humbly,” he said. “We do a lot of stuff without the publicity because we see that it needs to be done, and there’s not a farm or person I know that’s involved with agriculture that would not help out somebody in any given situation.”

Weikert Bryant said it isn’t just the big operations that are helping their neighbors.

“I was speaking with a couple from Northeast Indiana who grow a couple of acres of sweet corn,” she said. “If someone is in need of food assistance, the township trustee sends them to their couple of acres of sweet corn to glean what their family can use. So, farmers are not just feeding those of us who can afford it, they’re feeding everyone.”

While the holidays are a time when people often focus on the hungry, she urged year-round involvement – by donating food or volunteering at a local after-school program or food pantry.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – IN

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Updated SNAP Income Eligibility Guidelines Now Available

Each federal fiscal year (October 1-September 30), the United States Department of Agriculture publishes new income eligibility guidelines for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program based on the snapfederal poverty guidelines.

Find a flyer here to print and share with clients explaining the application process and containing the updated income guidelines.

FSSA Announces EBT Temporary System Outage

Temporary outage of the Hoosier Works EBT system on Saturday night September 26th and Sunday morning September 27th

Information courtesy of Indiana FSSA, EBT Temporary System Outage

Why is there going to be an EBT system outage?

The Hoosier Works Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system will be conducting a system transition on Saturday night, September 26, at 11:00 p.m. EDT causing a temporary system outage. Hoosier Works is the system Indiana uses to deliver Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. This outage affects all SNAP/TANF EBT cardholders.ebt

Our current provider, JP Morgan Chase, has decided to get out of the business of providing EBT card services. Therefore, Indiana must move our EBT business to a new provider (Xerox), and making that change requires a temporary system outage.

Will I be able to use my EBT card?

During the temporary system outage, EBT cardholders will not be able to make SNAP purchases or access TANF benefits at any grocery stores or ATMs. EBT cardholders should plan to do their grocery shopping and/or make cash withdrawals before or after the transition period. SNAP and TANF benefits are expected to be available Sunday afternoon, September 27, 12:30 p.m. EDT after the system transition is complete.

Will my benefits change?

No. All SNAP and TANF  benefits will remain the same.

Will I be getting a new EBT card?

No. SNAP/TANF clients will continue to use their current EBT cards after the transition.

Will my PIN for my EBT card change?

No. The PIN will remain the same for all EBT cardholders.

Will the system transition change where I can use my card?

The system transition will not change where EBT cards can be used. After the transition is complete, TANF recipients will be able to withdraw cash benefits at ATMs with the Quest logo. If the ATM charges a surcharge, the fees will be stated by the ATM before being deducted.

Will the customer service website change?

Yes. The new customer website will be www.ebt.acs-inc.com. However, the customer service phone number will remain 1-877-768-5098.

Ugly Produce Becomes a Life Line for Food Banks

What are you doing for Hunger Action Month? Consider supporting farm to food bank programs as they expand across the United States to new heights.

September is Hunger Action Month around the United States, and while many consumers know plenty of grocery stores and food banks that donate for hunger relief, the farm to food bank efforts can also be phenomenal at feeding those in need. As food insecurity has increased in the U.S. in recent years, farm to food bank programs have been expanding around the country to recover hundreds of millions of surplus and so called “ugly” (mishappen but perfectly delicious and nutritious) produce for those in need. There are now more than 10 farm to food bank programs in the U.S., with the newest from Feeding Indiana’s Hungry begining on July 1st.

What is a farm to food bank program? While the programs all have different features and drivers, the main goal is to enable food banks and pantries to pay significantly below market prices for produce surplus and produce seconds, or ugly produce. Produce that would have otherwise gone uneaten, in essence: wasted, due to market conditions or cosmetic standards. And with the large expansion of fresh produce offerings at food banks and pantries in recent years, farm to food bank programs are now more important than ever.

For ugly produce advocates, getting large grocers to sell ugly produce in the U.S. is the number one goal so that massive produce waste is put on notice. However, there is another side to the billions of pounds of ugly and surplus produce that’s going wasted every year, and that is the potential for produce to instead reach those in need. And the best (or worst) part is that there is so much produce wasted that there is more than enough to be sold in most grocery stores and reach most food banks and pantries in large quantities.

While grocers are largely sitting on the sidelines in this massive food waste fight against ugly and surplus produce, food banks and farmers are certainly not. The latest example of farmers joining this fight is Feeding Indiana’s Hungry program, which receives US$300,000 allocated by the state legislature annually to help fund the farm to food bank program. The funding enables food banks to buy fresh produce significantly below wholesale value.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry (FIH) Executive Director, Emily Weikert Bryant says that the program has been going very well in its early stage as producers are contacting FIH with requests. One of the first large recoveries was for over 900 watermelons that were surplus and would have gone uneaten, but instead, made their way to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana.

In California, where 50 percent of the country’s produce is grown, the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) Farm to Family program recovers 140 million pounds of produce a year. This produce then goes to 40 different food banks that partner with over 5,000 food pantries. While there is some financial support from foundations and donations, as with the FIH program and others, the CAFB program is mostly supported by modest program fees to farmers.

In addition to those fees, tax credits are also quite helpful in California (and some other states). Some growers can see up to US$60,000 in tax credits each year, according to CAFB Farm to Family Program Coordinator Steve Linkhart.

The CAFB program has plenty of room to grow as only 120 of the approximently 30,000 growers in California participate. And other programs around the country have room to grow as well, as there is still billions of pounds of produce left uneaten before the store each year. Please support Farm to Food Bank programs in IndianaCaliforniaKentucky, or wherever they exist this Hunger Action Month and the other 11 months of the year because they are truly making beautiful things happen with ugly produce.

Find out more about the growing “ugly” produce movement at my social media campaign @UglyFruitAndVeg on TwitterInstagramFacebook and now on Pinterest as well. 

Food Insecurity Rises Slightly in Indiana, While Declining Nationally

1 in 7 Hoosier Households Struggled with Hunger in 2014

Household Food Security research released today by the USDA Economic Research Service illustrates no significant improvement in reducing food insecurity in Indiana. One in seven Hoosier households struggled with hunger on average in the years 2012-2014.

Corporate Photo Female client selects takes grains rolls Ramen bread Weight Watchers out of a box outside outdoor pantry many clients

The report found that 14.6 percent of Hoosiers now live in food insecure households, up from 14.1 percent in 2013. The national household food insecurity rate declined from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 14.0 percent in 2014.

“While the needle seems to be fluctuating, no real improvement is being made to ensure that Hoosier families have enough food to remain healthy and active,” said Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry.

Across the nation, households outside metropolitan areas (more rural areas) are seeing considerably deeper struggles with hunger compared to those inside metropolitan areas, with higher rates of food insecurity (17.1 percent compared to 13.5 percent), higher rates of food insecurity in households with children (23.6 percent compared to 18.4 percent), and higher rates of very low food security (7.3 percent compared to 5.3 percent).

The report also captured rates of very low food security, when households reported disrupted eating patterns or hunger due to inadequate resources for food on multiple occasions during the year. It found that 6.4 percent of Hoosiers lived in households with very low food security last year, above the national average of 5.6 percent.

“More than 1 million Hoosiers rely on our emergency food network, which continues to set new records in food distribution, but this will not solve the problem,” said Bryant. “Our nation can solve hunger. The federal nutrition programs are among the most effective tools in ensuring people of all ages get the food they need to be active and healthy.  We’re urging our elected leaders to keep these programs strong, and that starts with a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill this fall.”

Hunger Action Day in Indiana: Wear Orange to Fight Hunger

Public News Service – IN | September 2015 | Download audio

Every dollar donated buys nine meals at the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. Courtesy: Food Bank of Northern IndianaImagine not knowing where your next meal will come from.

Getting enough food to eat is a daily battle for one in six Hoosiers, including more than 340,000 children.

Today is Hunger Action Day, and hunger-relief groups in Indiana are shining a light on the problem of food insecurity.

Many people who turn to food banks have a job, but still can’t afford basic necessities, explains Marijo Martinec, associate director of the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. And, she says, that leads to difficult decisions.

“Whether to buy food or pay utilities, rent, medications,” she explains. “We’ve also seen people that maybe donated in the past to our food bank but now have to come to our agencies to receive services.”

During September, people are encouraged to donate, volunteer, advocate and educate others on the realities of hunger today.

Martinec says people can start by wearing orange today as a symbolic color of hunger.

Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, says there are ways to pitch in at food banks and pantries around the state all year long. She says, typically, they have very few staff and always need volunteers to sort food, or pack senior boxes and food backpacks for children.

“Going into the holidays there’s a lot of opportunities for volunteering and for participating and for donations,” she points out. “But folks are hungry year-round and the food banks are doing their jobs year-round, so bringing a little bit more awareness carries out that mission throughout the whole year.”

Weikert Bryant adds that those who want to help but are short on time, can give money. She suggests perhaps skipping a daily specialty coffee and instead donating to a food pantry.

At the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, nine meals can be purchased for every dollar donated.

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry & Feeding America Network Raise Awareness of the Issue of Hunger Throughout Hunger Action Month

Hunger-Relief Organizations Encourage the Public to Join Spoontember this September and Support the 49 Million People Who Struggle with Hunger in America

Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, a Partner State Association of  the Feeding America® nationwide network of food banks, will observe Hunger Action MonthTM – a nationwide initiative designed to mobilize the Orange-Spoon-(35x162px)public to take action on the issue of hunger and join the movement to help end hunger. Hunger advocates from Indiana and across the country are working together this September to shine a light on the issue of hunger and the 1 in 6 people who face hunger in America – including more than one million Hoosiers.

“One in six people, including nearly 348,600 children in Indiana struggle with hunger, and Feeding Indiana’s Hungry is eager to rally around Hunger Action Month as we continue our fight to solve this issue,” said Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of the state association of food banks. “Hunger is an issue that affects everyone – our child’s classmate, an office coworker or neighbor down the street. September is an opportunity for all hunger-relief advocates to take simple steps towards supporting those in need.”

The Feeding America network of food banks also is participating in the new SpoontemberTM online initiative. To get involved, supporters can share a ‘spoon selfie’ or video of themselves balancing a spoon on their nose – a utensil that is most often used to prepare and provide food for others – and challenge friends and family to join them to generate awareness of the 49 million Americans who may not know where they’ll find their next meal.

In addition, many food banks will commemorate Hunger Action Day®, which will be held Thursday, September 3.  Hunger Action Day is an opportunity for the country to learn more about how hunger affects their community. Click here to find Hunger Action Day and Hunger Action Month events at regional food banks.

“Domestic hunger affects every community in our nation, preventing millions of families, seniors and children from thriving,” said Matt Knott, president of Feeding America. “This September we all are given a chance to come together and make a difference for those facing hunger.”

Individuals can also help show their support for hunger relief and Spoontember by joining the Hunger Action Month Thunderclap on Hunger Action Day, Thursday September 3, at 12pm EST. By visiting the Hunger Action Month Thunderclap page, advocates can synchronize a Thunderclap Facebook and Twitter message to be shared in tandem with thousands of others to raise awareness about domestic hunger.

SNAP Work Requirements Back for Some Hoosiers

by Mary Kuhlman, Indiana Public News Service

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INDIANAPOLIS – About 50,000 Hoosiers could lose food assistance in the next few months if they do 150629-FA-MI-0898not meet work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

A federal waiver that allowed adults without dependents to forgo work requirements during the recession is expiring.

Terry Mayo, SNAP outreach coordinator with Indiana 211, says in order to get enrolled and into compliance, recipients must have an in-person assessment.

“It’s crucial they be in contact with IMPACT so that they can work with them,” she says. “They want to keep them from getting their benefits discontinued, so they want to make sure that they’re plugging in and it’s documented they’re plugged into what they’re supposed to be.”

Indiana Manpower and Comprehensive Training (IMPACT) provides education, training, job search and placement to help SNAP recipients get back on their feet.

The change affects those on food assistance between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not receiving disability benefits and do not have children. Appointment notices were sent in the mail, and recipients need to call the Family and Social Services Administration for missed appointments.

According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the state’s unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in July, the lowest it has been since before the recession. But Jessica Fraser, program manager with the Indiana Institute for Working Families, says there are still many residents without work or in low-wage jobs who need help making ends meet.

“They can’t find good jobs that pull them up out of this problem,” she says. “The fact that SNAP provides employment and training opportunities is an opportunity for these folks to go in there, get these appointments, get assessed and maybe get on a training plan that could lead to self-sufficiency.”

The work requirements for SNAP include opportunities through the Community Work Experience Program, which places clients into unpaid jobs or volunteer opportunities. Fraser says this allows participants to gain work experience and employment skills.

The phone number for the Family and Social Services Administration is 800-403-0864.

Number of Americans Struggling to Afford Food Declines Significantly, Little Change for Hoosiers


Analysis by Food Research & Action Center

Download First Half of 2015 Food Hardship Rate by State (pdf).

The impact of the economic recovery plus the increased share of households in need that is receiving SNAP (food stamps) is showing positive results, based on evidence from the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey (pdf) that reveals a declining number of families struggling to afford food. The analysis of the Gallup survey was conducted by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Such families are described by FRAC as experiencing food hardship.

For the last seven years the Gallup organization has been asking large numbers of American households “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” Nationally, 15.8 percent of survey respondents in the first half of 2015 answered “yes.” This is a drop from the 17.1 percent who replied “yes” in 2014.

The trend in the national data was reflected as well in the state-by-state survey findings for the first half of 2015.

Compared to the 2014 annual data, several states saw a statistically significant decline in food hardship in the first half of 2015. These states included Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Food hardship rates in the other 33 states with survey findings (several other states did not have adequate sample sizes to report any findings) generally either remained at the same rate as 2014 or, more typically, declined but by an amount that was within the margin of error.

Indiana’s rate decreased marginally, from 17 percent in 2014 to 16 percent for the first half of 2015.

The food hardship rates are the lowest since Gallup began collecting data in 2008. In the first few months of 2008, the food hardship rate was 16.7 percent or lower, but the deepening recession pushed the rate up so much that in most of the five and a half years beginning in July 2008 the monthly rate was 18 percent or higher — reaching as high as 20 percent in some months.

Today, there are many key factors at play that are resulting in fewer Americans struggling to put food on the table. As the economy continues to improve, unemployment numbers continue to fall. Meanwhile, federal nutrition programs buoy this positive trajectory. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), for instance, is helping to meet the nutritional needs of people who are out-of-work as well as those who are transitioning to employment and/or to jobs with better wages. Since the recession hit, the growth in the rate of SNAP participation, even as the number of eligible people grew, kept hunger in America from getting even worse.

While progress is being made, it is important to note that the current rate of food hardship is still far too high, and still unacceptable. There are large proportions of children, adults and families in every state who face a daily struggle with hunger.

We are at a critical crossroads in determining how we will assist the most vulnerable among us. This fall, federal child nutrition programs—such as school breakfast, school lunch, afterschool meals and summer meals — are set for reauthorization. Other safety net programs from SNAP to low-income tax credits to Social Security Disability Insurance to Medicaid are under attack in the budget process.

This is the right time for our representatives to demonstrate their commitment to ensuring our nation’s struggling families have the nutrition they need to stay healthy and that children can stay active and perform well in school. As for SNAP, it continues to do its job as the first line of defense against hunger, but the monthly benefits still do not meet the need. If we are to build on the progress made, Congress must protect and strengthen SNAP, the child nutrition programs, and other key elements of the safety net.