MUNCIE, Ind. — The long lines of cars driving up to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana's monthly tailgate drives, which are deployed to eight counties in this area, illustrate the rising need for food in this part of the country.
According to Lois Rockhill, executive director, those receiving food from the mobile pantries, which hand out bags containing about five items of groceries each, including a sack of potatoes, has increased on average from about 350 families to 550 in recent months.
In an area heavily dependent on General Motors, Rockhill said the economy is not great. “Hopefully, the economy won't pull the rug from under us,” she said.
Besides operating in a challenging economic environment, Second Harvest, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, is settling into a new location and quarters on a 36-acre site here after having its previous warehouse building condemned. Rockhill said the basement wall of the old building was ready to collapse.
The food bank purchased its present site, which includes a fairly new 30,000-square-foot warehouse, for $700,000. With the move, the food bank embarked on a $4 million capital-raising campaign last year. “We have a job to do,” said Rockhill. “Not only are we raising money for our normal operations, but also for the move last year and additional programming.”
Second Harvest's annual budget will be about $900,00 this year. It hopes to distribute about 5 million pounds of food in the area, where about 49,000 people are reportedly living in poverty and 72,000 more are hovering close to the edge, said Rockhill. To fulfill that hunger need would require about 11 million to 12 million pounds of food. In the 25 years the food bank has been in operation, it has distributed 45 million pounds of food.
Indianapolis-based Marsh Supermarkets supports the food bank through Food For All funding, which began several years ago when Marsh kicked off its Frozen Food Month promotion by including a community-focused theme of “Freeze Out Hunger.”
“Our customers were given the chance to donate at the register to support Frozen Food Month, which occurs in March each year,” said Chris Banta, Marsh's vice president, grocery merchandising. “Those donations were spread to several food banks in the areas that our stores service.” Banta estimated that Marsh promotions so far through Food For All have netted a total of $45,000-$50,000 in donations.
“Food For All has been able to bring us a well-organized, turnkey promotion, which supplies the promotional materials necessary to alert our customers to the donation program. They really are the materials organizer for us,” Banta commented.
Marsh plans to repeat its Food For All holiday promotion, which it ran for the first time last year.
Rockhill said Food For All and Marsh have been important food donors to the bank. Marsh donates regularly through its perishable food warehouse in Yorktown, Ind. In 2007, Second Harvest received a $5,000 donation from Food For All and 120,222 pounds of perishable foods from Marsh ($1.49 per pound value). So far this year, Marsh contributed another 61,715 pounds of food and $3,300 from shopper dollar donations at the register.
Rockhill is hopeful the funding will continue. “We are fulfilling basic needs, and people will continue to give, but we watch those bottom lines real close right now,” she said.