Collaboration | Cooperation | Communication
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed food banks and their agency partners in an unprecedented situation. They had to change their business models seemingly overnight. They had to come up with new ways to do more with less – but the food banks are persevering. They continue to work exceedingly long hours and do what they do best – feed people. The Feeding America food bank partners in Indiana, that serve all 92 counties, have a huge job to do and they are doing it well! Below is just a sampling of the collaboration, cooperation, and communication from the past few weeks.
Hoosier Hills Food Bank, Bloomington, IN – Julio Alonso, Executive Director and CEO
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 stay-in-place order and shut downs, which we consider March 16, we have seen a dramatic increase in the basic need for food at Pantry 279. Within that first day, our number of patrons more than doubled and it has continued to increase ever since. Hoosier Hills Food Bank was able to immediately begin sending us more food and was kind enough to deliver it, as we have no way of pulling our trailer at this time and do not own a box truck. Since then HHFB has gone from providing us two trucks of food a week to 5-6 trucks a week. This has greatly helped us to be able to not turn anyone in need of food away. Pantry 279 is forever grateful for the swift responses, extra help, and mental support given by Julio and his crew at HHFB. Cindy Chavez, Director, Pantry 279, the Pantry with TLC, Ellettsville IN
Because of the work of the Hoosier Hills Food Bank, to bring additional food into our community, Community Kitchen has been able to continue conducting our Backpack Buddies program for school aged children from low-income families. We have been able to use food from HHFB to offset the lack of food donations coming in from the public, to ensure that we can continue to feed folks in need. Without volunteers and food donations, our costs to provide service are higher than normal. Being able to access the high quality food from Hoosier Hills Food Bank is making it manageable for us during this crisis. Vicki Pierce, Executive Director, Community Kitchen of Monroe County
Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana, Muncie, IN – Tim Kean, President & CEO
During COVID-19, Second Harvest continues to supply food to the 35 schools that have The Big Idea initiative in partnership with volunteers from each school system. Second Harvest supplies food boxes to the schools which are then passed to families via a drive-thru format at each school location.
Huffer Memorial Children’s Center, Ball Brother’s Foundation and Second Harvest Food Bank are supplying Infant and Toddler Kits to local families who are in need of formula, diapers and wipes. Second Harvest Food Bank is a member of the National Diaper Bank Network and supplying the diapers.
Food Bank of Northern Indiana, South Bend, IN – Marijo Martinec, Executive Director and CEO
The Food Bank of Northern Indiana has been especially grateful for support of the Indiana National Guard during this unprecedented time of COVID-19. Our troops came on April 8, at a time when our food bank lost its core and corporate volunteers and saw a significant increase in need in our northern Indiana communities. Quickly, they became part of our team. They pack at least 5,000 boxes and 2,000 bags each week. They assist on mobile distributions in Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Marshall, Starke and St. Joseph Counties, packing and distributing food to people in need. They help with food deliveries, mobile distributions, and ensuring our warehouse runs in a smooth and orderly manner. From April 8 through April 21, the Indiana National Guard helped distribute 305,063 pounds of food through our six-county service area. During this time period, they have helped serve 4,264 households and 17,166 individuals. Lt. Turner Edwards and Lt. Skyler Zenisek and all of our troops represent the Indiana National Guard in a positive manner and are incredible to work with. We are humbled by their can-do attitude and forever grateful for their support during this crisis. Thank you to Governor Holcomb and LTC Motz.
Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, Merrillville, IN – Victor Garcia, Executive Director
Our Northwest Indiana community has rallied together to ensure that food is one less worry for our neighbors. The level of collaboration at all levels is inspiring. We are working with state and local government, the National Guard, municipalities, townships, businesses, organizations, and individuals in ways that are only possible by the demands of this current crisis. The strength of our unified community effort is being extraordinarily magnified during this time.
New programs like our Pantry Pack- Senior Box home delivery have grown by 400%. Our mobile market distributions have grown exponentially. For the month of January 2020, our mobile market served 6,500 individuals. For the first two weeks in April, we served over 11,000! This is only possible with our partners from the National Guard, ISDH, and FSSA.
Midwest Food Bank, Indianapolis, IN – John Whitaker, Executive Director
Midwest Food Bank has seen the heart of the Hoosier community revealed in the giving of Lucas Oil Stadium by the C.I.B. to be used as a distribution center for emergency food relief. When faced with a challenge to find a facility large enough for partners such as the Midwest Food Bank, Salvation Army, Second Helpings, and Gleaners they stepped up big to help. They offered not only 40,000 square feet of space but also paid volunteers to come and assist us in our efforts. Friday with their help and the assistance of over 70 Hoosiers including our wonderful National Guardsmen, Midwest Food Bank and Salvation Army volunteers, we packed over 10,000 Family Food Boxes which equates to over half a million dollars of food relief or 480,000 meals that were distributed to Hoosiers in several counties around the state.
Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, Indianapolis, IN – John Elliott, President & CEO
As all of this ramped up, a meeting was called on March 9. We felt we had to stop doing things the old way and find ways to serve while also allowing our clients and volunteers to practice social distancing. In less than 24 hours, we completely turned our distribution model on its head. We packed boxes – all staff coming together in the warehouse regardless of our “regular” job to get boxes ready for the next day. Corporate volunteer groups had all cancelled so we were on our own. Never once was there any consideration of pulling back or cancelling. Not once that day and not once since has there been any discussion of not serving people. I see some of our sister food banks around the country that have had to reduce operations. At Gleaners, we have expanded our operations and continue to feed more people than ever before. I’m a communications professional, and telling positive stories about Gleaners is my job. It is so gratifying to work for an organization that makes my job so easy. The people I work with are heroes.
A woman wrote to us on Facebook on April 4. She wrote: “As I sit down to an amazing pork taco dinner made with goods from your pantry, I would just like to say thank you again to all of the amazing volunteers and employees at this food bank. I’m disabled and immuno-compromised and depend on you to keep food in my home. I truly appreciate all you do even under less stressful times, and especially right now. Your work has made it so that I don’t have to leave my home, which means I am less likely to end up hospitalized. Thank you for all you do, for your hard work, dedication, and selflessness.”
Thanks to many compassionate Hoosiers, the food banks are receiving extra financial support. Every dollar matters, please give if you are able. www.feedingamerica.org/covidIN