Feeding a need

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Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank works to keep food pantry shelves stocked during increased necessity

“I was hungry and you fed me.” Matthew 25:35

The scripture that serves as Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank’s motto exemplifies the nonprofit’s goal – to feed those in need literally and spiritually.

HCHFB began in 2009 and assisted a handful of local food pantries. This year, the food bank supports 25 pantries throughout Hamilton County (including eight in Noblesville) that provide community meals and summer lunch programs.

“Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank is the hub,” Vice President Mike Murphy said. “The food bank helps the pantries and White River Christian Church Food Pantry helps the food bank (by providing it space to operate).”

HCHFB President Anita Hagen said the organization is there to promote pantries and support startups.

“Each year the number of pantries and programs has grown,” she said, adding there was a 35 percent increase in the number of pantries supported in the past year. “It’s taking off right now.”

Hagen said Hamilton County has 28,000 people who are food insecure.

“Its people who are not real sure where the next meal is coming from – the working poor,” she said. “Pantries or lunch programs are a direct safety net for these clients that someone cares. Pantries need a safety net, too.”

For 30 years the American Red Cross Chapter of Hamilton County had coordinated a food collection and distribution network for all of Hamilton County. However, because of budget constraints in the summer of 2009, this endeavor was unable to continue. Several of the food pantries that had worked closely with the Red Cross decided to continue this activity within a separate organization and started HCHFB, which operated out of the White River Christian Church Annex, 1605 N. 10th St., Noblesville.

“From the beginning we committed to organizing and growing the same holiday school and business drives as had been coordinated by the Red Cross in the past,” Hagen said. “As of 2013, we have collected 225,000 pounds of food.”

Officials said donations, especially ones from Hamilton County school drives, increased by 43 percent in 2014.

“The community is more than generous,” Hagen said. “The food bank would not be here without the school building drives. They are our foundation.”

Still, the need is growing in Hamilton County and HCHFB is feeling it.

“Currently we are on track to spend $25,000 this year in food purchases,” Hagen said. “A lot of food has to be purchased these days.”

Instead of using the total number of items, the HCHFB tracks donations by the load, which is between 500 and 600 pounds each. When donations are received and when food pantry collections are made, Hagen said the items are weighed.

“There were approximately 135 loads of food distributed in 2014. Distributions increased by 38 percent from 2013 to 2014,” she said. “I think we are looking at 90,000 pounds this year.”

One of the pantries receiving food is Angels Attic, a food and baby pantry and clothing and home goods ministry.

“We know if we need something Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank can come take pressure off our shoulders,” said Kim Beaver, executive director. “We know that need will be met.”

Beaver said she used to say, “We need food.” Now she reports Angels Attic is doing well and sends overflow items to secondary locations in need.

“Once that is lifted off your shoulders, you concentrate on the people,” she said of food donations.

Officials said the communication and joint efforts developed amongst it and their partner pantries is one of its greatest assets.

“We remain committed to operating a food bank that is completely open and accessible to all in the entire county,” Hagen said.

Murphy said volunteers are needed to help meet the growing needs in Hamilton County. For more information on how to assist HCHFB, visit www.hchfoodbank.org or e-mail hamiltoncountyharvest@gmail.com.

Know more

Address: 1605 N. 10th St., Noblesville

Background: Founded in 2009, the Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank is an all-volunteer 501C3 organization which specializes in efficiently and cost effectively collecting, sorting and distributing food products to Hamilton County Food pantries. The food bank is a member of the Good Samaritan Network.

Serves: Arcadia’s Angels Attic, Hamilton Heights Kids Lunch, St. Vincent de Paul, White River Christian Church, Sacred Heart Catholic, Open Arms at Aroma Methodist Church, Bethel Lutheran, Green Valley Church of Christ, Christ’s Community/House of Refuge at Lamong, Sheridan Church of God, Loving Hands-Christ’s Community Noblesville, Bread of Life at Hazel Dell Christian Church, Atlanta Christian Church, Cicero Christian Church, Faith Apostolic at Sheridan, Sheridan United Methodist Lunch Program, Sheridan United Methodist, Cicero United Methodist LOL Meal, Shepherd’s Gate at St. Maria Goretti, Stilts Spirit – A Giving Tree, Redeeming Love, Live the Way pantry and the township trustee offices in Adams, Delaware Fall Creek and Noblesville.

Open times: 4 to 6 p.m. Thursdays. Work days and other times for distribution can be scheduled separately. HCHFB also holds monthly meetings at 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday at its facility. The meetings are open to those who want to attend.

Website: www.hchfoodbank.org

By the numbers

47 – Percentage increase in the number of food panties Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank assists from 2013 to 2014

25,000 – Dollars HCHFB is expected to spend this year in food purchases

30 – Percentage food purchases have increased each of the past three years

38 – Percentage of total cash donations increased in 2014 fiscal year

85 – Percentage of HCHFB’s total cash donations used to fund food purchases

35 – Percentage increase in pounds of food collected this year from 2014

25,000 – Projected number of pounds of food purchased above 2014

135 – Loads of 500 to 600 pounds of food distributed in 2014, an increase of 38 percent from 2013

35 – Percentage increase in food distributions this year

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