The Hoosier Hills Food Bank increased its distribution of food by 39% in 2020, distributing a total of 7,089,749 pounds of food.
This is a record amount of food given out from the organization. Ryan Jochim, manager of volunteer services and community engagement, said he wants to meet the need again in the future.
Hoosier Hills Food Bank provides food to nonprofit agencies, pantries and shelters in Brown, Lawrence, Orange, Owen, Martin and Monroe counties. It also has a mobile food bank.
Julio Alonso, executive director and CEO of the food bank, said the organization has lost hundreds of volunteers and suffered a decrease in local donations because of the pandemic.
“We had to immediately change all of our protocols to move to no-contact or low-contact distributions,” Alonso said.
Hoosier Hills’ Letters Carrier Food Drive and the Orientation Food Drive in the summer had to be canceled.
To make up for the loss of donations, Alonso said Hoosier Hills purchased 3 times more food in 2020 than in 2019.
Brandon Bartley, manager of food sourcing and food policy, said the food bank also received more than a million pounds of boxes of food via the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
Bartley said the pandemic exacerbated equity issues within the food bank’s service area.Bartley said some communities of color who need the food most don’t have ways to access it.
“A lot of this food is sitting in our warehouse, and we'd love to move it and want to work really hard to find the right communities to move this food to,” Bartley said.
Alonso also said clients and outside agencies could no longer shop at the food bank and choose their own items.
Alonso said the food bank implemented new programs, such as on-site food distribution.
“By the time those were through, we had served over 10,400 households,” Alonso said.
Jochim said the food bank had to cut the volunteer programs it normally runs. One of the cut programs had about 15 to 20 volunteers every evening.
Before the pandemic, Jochim said volunteers could assist the food bank with sorting, preparing food, cleaning and office work.
Alonso said the National Guard began assisting the pantry in late March to supplement the loss of volunteers.
“We were able to get quite a bit of food out the door throughout the summer and end of the fall, because of their help,” Jochim said.
The Hoosier Hills Food Bank will host its 27th Annual Soup Bowl Benefit virtually this year.
The Soup Bowl Benefit is normally held at the Monroe County Convention Center, and attendees can sample soups from local restaurants, listen to music and walk away with a bowl crafted by a local potter.
This year, participants can stream the entertainment on Feb. 21 after purchasing tickets. The bowls will be randomly distributed drive-through style before the event.
The three things the food bank always needs, Alonso said, are volunteers, food donations of non-perishable foods and financial support.
Interested volunteers can email Ryan Jochim at firstname.lastname@example.org.