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Hoosier Hills Food Bank celebrates 35 years of service


First United Methodist Church volunteer Steve Ulrey unloads cans of peaches on Wednesday at the Hoosier Hills Food Bank. The food bank serves six counties, including Monroe County, and will celebrate its 35th anniversary on Saturday. Emily Eckelbarger Buy Photos

The Hoosier Hills Food Bank has spent the last 35 years spreading the same message and belief. 

No one deserves to go hungry.

A group of Bloomington residents saw the growth of food banks during the late 1970s and early '80s and wanted to make a difference in their community, so they started the Hoosier Hills Food Bank in 1982.

“A group of concerned citizens saw the hunger problems here in Bloomington and wanted to make a difference, so they did,” CEO and executive director Julio Alonso said.

The Hoosier Hills Food Bank opened Nov. 18, 1982, and it has grown and expanded ever since. 

In order to celebrate its birthday, Hoosier Hills Food Bank is delivering three tons of potatoes to Pantry 279, a food pantry in Ellettsville, Indiana, for its Thanksgiving dinner.

According to the Hoosier Hills Food Bank’s annual distribution report, it gave 405 pounds of food in 1982 and 4,455,785 pounds in 2016. The food bank serves over 100 nonprofit agencies in Monroe, Owen, Orange, Martin, Brown and Lawrence counties. 

Alonso said the growth of food banks has greatly helped people dealing with hunger and food insecurity, but there is still a lot of room for growth.

“I think when food banks first started, people were really pushing to end hunger, and now we have a lot of emphasis on food insecurity, too,” Alonso said. “We do want to end hunger, of course, but there will always be food insecurity, and we want to help with that as much as we can.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food insecurity is anxiety of having a shortage of food within a household and potentially having a reduced quality and amount of food. 

In 2016, Monroe County had 25,130 individuals and 4,750 children people dealing with food insecurity.

The Hoosier Hills Food Bank best year of record was 2016, and the staff has made its mission for this year to do even better. 

So far, the food bank has distributed 3,475,037 pounds of food. This would require them to raise over 1,000,000 more pounds of food this year to achieve their goal.

“We don’t always exactly put a number goal for each year,” said Jake Bruner, director of development and administration. “Our goal is just always to do better than the year before and give our agencies as much as we can.”

Last holiday season, the food bank distributed 948,856 pounds of food, which is equivalent to 790,713 meals and is hoping to distribute this more this year.

Jordan Hall, the Maurer School of Law, the Kelley School of Business and the Indiana Memorial Union all have bins where students and staff can donate goods, and Alonso said the food bank is always open to hosting food drives with any organization willing to participate.

“We always say hunger has no season,” Alonso said. “We’re busy all year long, but we know the holiday season has special meaning for so many people.”

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