Hoosier Hills Food Bank, in celebration of already distributing more food this year than in all of 2015, will bring oranges to low-income families during the holiday season.
The food bank accepted a delivery of 40,000 pounds or 21 pallets of California oranges from the Smithville Charitable Foundation, paying only transportation and processing costs for a donation through the Feeding America network.
“Citrus is usually something we are not able to acquire,” Julio Alonso, executive director of HHFB, said. “Coming from California, Texas or Florida, transportation costs are usually too high. But because of the support from Smithville, we could secure this purchase.”
Repacking the cased oranges into 3-to-4-pound mesh bags will provide at least 10,000 units for distribution. Nine hundred twenty-five bags will go to low-income senior citizens as a fresh produce supplement to their monthly box of federal commodities in December.
Another 500 bags will be distributed through the food bank’s four mobile food pantries this month and 200 through Community Kitchen’s Christmas grocery distribution. The remaining oranges, enough for over 8,000 bags, are available to the food bank’s other partner agencies for distribution through their programs this month.
HHFB set a goal to distribute over 1 million pounds of fresh produce in 2016. This continued in late summer when the food bank’s officials searched for funding for an end-of-year produce push. Both Smithville Charitable Foundation and Monroe County’s Sophia Travis Grant Program agreed to help with the push.
Following the food bank reaching the anticipated goal, the staff discussed raising their personal expectations for the end of the year. The new goal for the 2016 year is to increase this distribution goal to 1.3 million pounds of fresh produce. With the orange distribution, Alonso said he thinks this goal can be easily reached.
So far, in the last quarter of the year, the grants have supported the distribution of over 144,000 pounds of fresh produce, including 9,000 pounds of apples, 4,000 pounds of carrots, 40,000 pounds of potatoes, 18,000 pounds of cucumbers, 17,000 pounds of tomatoes and 16,000 pounds of bananas, in addition to the incoming oranges, according to a HHFB press release.
With other produce sources including retail, garden, gleaning, Farmer’s Market donors and other purchases, HHFB has now met the “more than a million” goal and has distributed 1,125,335 pounds of fresh produce through Nov. 30.
That represents a 48 percent increase in fresh produce distributed from last November. So far, fresh produce constitutes 28 percent of the total food HHFB has distributed.
About 4 million pounds of food distributed through Nov. 30 is up 21 percent from last year at this time and is already higher than the 3,766,104 pounds distributed in all of 2015, according to the release.
Looking at the upcoming year, Alonso said goals will definitely be raised, but the staff will be focused on first maintaining the goals of this past year.
“We know we can really step up our game,” Alonso said.
With the partnering organizations, HHFB was able to distribute to its 6 counties and collectively serve 25,800 people throughout the year.
“My favorite part of my job is just knowing that we are able to provide people with something so basic for human life — something that everyone needs and a lot of us take for granted,” Alonso said. “For us being a part of making sure those families get what they need makes it worth it.”
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