Feeding a need: Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank talks increased operations, need at annual meeting

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After nearly a decade of operation, the Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank is serving more than ever.

Since 2009, programs and resources have continued to grow along with needs, as evidenced by the recently released annual report for 2018.

During the organization’s annual meeting last month, HCHFB Director Anita Hagen highlighted important points from the report before a panel discussion March 19 at Ivy Tech.

Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank volunteer Sheryl Galt prepares a shipment for a local (Photos by Sadie Hunter)

“We were blessed once again to serve Hamilton County (in 2018), and through the community’s donations, we were able to provide enough food for 113,798 meals,” Hagen said. “These were all for family and children in our community. Each year, our food distribution numbers have increased. This year, they have started to slow down. There are several known reasons for this as we continue to concentrate on our networking and direct distribution to pantries and programs. We try to ensure that the food drives and donations can go to the programs we work with sooner.

“This was the case with the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive and the Pack the Cruiser Food Drive. These combined drives contributed over 49,000 pounds of food in addition to what we distributed from our two facilities.”

The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive will return May 11. Letter carriers in Hamilton County and other communities will, prior to the day of the drive, drop off plastic shopping bags with regular mail delivery with information about the drive. Residents can then put nonperishable food items in the bag and leave it next to their mailboxes May 11. Letter carriers will pick up the bags for distribution to local pantries.

Hagen said the HCHFB’s most significant accomplishment the past couple of years has been feeding kids in Hamilton County.

“We (have seen) a real growth area in the meals-for-kids programs, both the summer lunch and school weekend meal packs,” she said. “The absolute necessity of providing healthy, consistent food for all of the children in our county who need it every day of the year is finally becoming a recognized need for the whole county. Just in our own arena, school weekend meal pack distributions increased by 157 percent this past year alone.

“Working with the school systems and (Noblesville Youth Assistance Program) started in 2017. It is now an integral part of ensuring our meals for kids programs are where they need to be and that they will succeed all across the county.”

Another initiative of HCHFB is to bring a consistent supply of fresh produce and meats to the pantries it serves.

“As we continue to determine the best methods to utilize our space at Ivy Tech for perishables, will seek out more ways to bring healthy produce and protein to all the pantries and programs we work with,” Hagen said.

In March, HCHFB introduced a new program, the spring meat giveaway, and continued its annual March Madness Food Drive. This summer, HCHFB will continue its partnership with local farmers markets to collect unsold produce. For more, visit hch-foodbank.org.

HCHFB director Anita Hagen said a goal for 2019 is to provide more fresh produce and meat to local pantries.

BY THE NUMBERS 2018

7,328 – Volunteer hours, compared to 7,231 in 2017 and 5,748 in 2016. HCHFB Director Anita Hagen said all of the HCHFB programs rely solely on volunteers.

130 – Percent increase in produce distribution

136,557 – Pounds of food distributed (128,997 pounds in 2017; 103,186 pounds in 2016)

27,760 – Number of food insecure individuals in Hamilton County, 10,860 of which are children.

7 – Hamilton County ranks seventh-highest in the state for the number of food insecure individuals

157 – Percent increase in nonperishable distributions of school meal packs

113,798 – Meals distributed by Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank in 2018, a 6 percent increase from 2017

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