It’s exciting and encouraging to see that the issue of food insecurity on campus is seeing more awareness. But it’s also important to be aware of both existing efforts to address hunger and of the fact that IU is part of a larger Bloomington community that is interconnected in many ways in the hope that efforts can be collaborative and most effective.
Hoosier Hills Food Bank has been fighting food insecurity in our community for the past 36 years. Our sustainable efforts have served to support students, faculty, staff and the greater community by rescuing food that would otherwise be wasted and providing it to people in need effectively and with a high regard for food safety.
In the current academic year, HHFB has rescued over 46,600 pounds of food from campus sources, the equivalent of almost 39,000 meals. This is food that is not all readily suitable for distribution to individuals or for handling by those without food safety training or the capacity to transport and store it properly, but which would otherwise likely have been trashed or composted.
In turn, since the start of the school year, HHFB has collected or purchased, stored and delivered over 15,200 pounds of food to Crimson Cupboard at no cost to either the food pantry or its clients. We’ve worked closely with Cupboard leaders to provide the type and quantity of food that the pantry can handle on a schedule that worked for its staff and volunteers.
HHFB has maintained relationships on the IU campus that often don’t exist between food banks and colleges. We were rescuing prepared food from restaurants and campus sources long before it became a popular idea. The model we offer allows for the reliable rescue and collection of maximum levels of food from as many sources as possible and the redistribution of that food in ways that maximize its usefulness and minimize food safety concerns.
Food collected by HHFB at IU benefits not only the campus food pantry, but the larger Bloomington community of which IU is an integral part. Agencies such as Community Kitchen, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and Shalom Community Center rely on food we collect and repack from campus sources as well as off-campus donors.
We also work to engage hundreds of IU students as volunteers and to provide service learning opportunities and exposure to the issue of food insecurity as not just a campus, but a local, regional and national problem.
At least one fraternity has provided one excellent model of partnership with us. With their chef, these students take responsibility for repacking the leftover prepared food from their kitchen, following appropriate food safety guidelines and have it ready for HHFB to pick up the next day. A sorority with which we work closely is working on piloting a similar project.
We applaud any efforts to expand the work of reducing food insecurity on campus and in our community, and we stand ready to engage partners interested in doing so. But we hope they’ll be coordinated with all existing stakeholders both on campus and off. We have experience and expertise to share and we have a vested interest in ensuring that efforts are sustainable and not duplicative, and resources aren’t wasted.