The Bloomington Fire Department is collecting donations of non-perishable food items, and the last day to donate is Dec. 15.
“The fire department does more than just put out fires,” BFD Capt. Max Litwin said. “We’re here to help the community in whatever way that we can.”
The food will be distributed to five local organizations, including Community Kitchen of Monroe County’s Backpack Buddies program, College Square Pantry and the Shalom Community Center. The food drive is the first event under BFD’s newly-developed Heroes Helping Hoosiers program. Litwin said the department hopes to have more events, such as a coat drive, in the future. There are six collection sites:
BFD Station 1, 300 E. Fourth St.
BFD Station 2, 209 S. Fairfield Drive
BFD Station 3, 900 N. Woodlawn Ave.
BFD Station 4, 2201 E. Third St.
BFD Station 5, 1987 S. Henderson St.
City Hall, 401 N. Morton St.
People can drop off donations at the fire department sites any time of the week, and most drop-off boxes are at the fire station bays or nearby, Litwin said. People can ask BFD staff members to help locate the drop-off box or carry donations to it.
The site at City Hall can only be accessed during business hours, though the hours vary.
BFD has been involved in other food drives before, and Litwin said the holiday season makes this food drive especially important.
“Hunger isn’t something that the community should have to face during a time of the holidays when they should be celebrating,” he said.
Vicki Pierce, executive director of Community Kitchen, said the Backpack Buddies program provides food over the weekends to kids who receive free or reduced lunches at school.
“We know that any time those kids are home over a prolonged period of time, they’re potentially at a nutritional disadvantage,” Pierce said.
She said the program serves about 410 students spread throughout 21 schools.
Each set of food has meal helper items, such as Hamburger Helper or mac and cheese, as well as fresh fruit, breakfast items, snacks, protein and vegetables when possible. Pierce said Community Kitchen often has to buy protein options for the Backpack Buddies program, so she’s excited when people donate canned chicken, tuna or peanut butter.
The food items must be shelf-stable, and they have to be lightweight so they are easy for kids to carry home, Pierce said. Because of this, Community Kitchen minimizes the amount of canned foods in backpacks. She recommended donating anything easy to prepare such as Jiffy bread mixes, snack crackers and fruit cups.
Although the organization receives grants to purchase food throughout the year, it relies a lot on donations for the Backpack Buddies program. Pierce said the food drive BFD organized helps Community Kitchen greatly.
“Every time someone does a food drive for us, specifically for that program, it really helps us sustain the program and keep us from having to purchase more food,” she said.
Pierce said not all the backpacks of food need to have the same food in them, so Community Kitchen can use donations of any quantity.
“It allows us to use those food donations to get it out to people who need it,” she said.
Litwin said he and BFD appreciate anyone who has contributed or will contribute to the food drive.
“We can really make a difference in the community,” Litwin said.
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