Feeding a need: Food bank to supply thousands with summer lunch programs

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The Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank’s Harvest Haul 5K returns to Forest Park June 16. (Submitted photo)

Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank’s Harvest Haul 5K run/walk is returning  for its second year to Forest Park in Noblesville to again help with food insecurity – particularly summer lunch programming for students.

Proceeds from the June 16 run/walk will directly benefit the food bank that services pantries and food programs throughout the county.

Last year, the 5K raised approximately $2,500 for HCHFB.

Harvest Haul 5K race directors Jay and Jessica Robinson. (Submitted photo)

“The funds will go into the general operating fund,” HCHFB Director Anita Hagen said. “We do everything with volunteers, so it funds some of that. It also can go toward any of the programming, but we primarily purchase a lot of summer lunch food. Summer lunch programs have just completely exploded. In Hamilton County, a lot of the communities don’t reach the threshold where they can get summer food service program grants that are federal- or state-directed, so then they become totally community-supported. We help, from the food bank, to try to be the backbone support for that.”

Hagen and Board President Mary Lou Finchum said when most people think about Hamilton County, they don’t think food insecurity is a problem.

In 2016, HCHFB booked approximately 15,000 meals across the county for 10 weeks of summer lunch food service. In 2017, HCHFB added Fishers and Carmel to its programming, and the number nearly tripled to more than 40,000.

“This year, it will probably jump to over 75,000,” Hagen said. “Fishers has something like 3,000 free-lunch kids.”

Finchum said approximately 40 percent of students in the Sheridan and Hamilton Heights school districts are on free and reduced lunch, while Westfield and Noblesville are in the high 20- to 30 percent-range.

“Then you get to Fishers and Carmel, who are in the teens and very low 20s, but there are so many more kids there,” Finchum said. “You know, you’re dealing with 1,200 kids (in the northern part of the county) and 12,000 kids in the southern parts. Ten percent of 12,000 is a lot more than 40 percent of 1,200.”

Some organizations that work with HCHFB for summer lunch programs tailor food packs to be educational.

“The Noblesville Youth Assistance Program is unique because they pack with menus that have been created with school nutritionists and dieticians on a rotation,” Finchum said. “So, they get a box of ingredients to make their lunch with, rather than sack lunches. It’s all nutritious and filling, and they get to make it themselves.”

“So there are instructions, and it’s really even aimed at kids as young as kindergarten to make the meal, maybe with some minor assistance,” Hagen said.

THE RACE

This map shows the route of the 5K. (Submitted maps)

The Harvest Haul 5K run and family walk will begin at 8 a.m. June 16.

“We do about four big events each year, and it made sense to put one in every quarter,” said Mary Lou Finchum, HCHFB board president. “Summer is Harvest Haul. Fall is a winery event. Our big event for winter is our holiday drive, and we just had our big, annual meeting in March.”

A volunteer couple, Jessica and Jay Robinson, who are both runners and now race directors, approached the food bank with the idea for a 5K.

“They wanted to get into what it would take to do race management, so they asked us if we had ever considered doing a 5K,” HCHFB Director Anita Hagen said. “It’s a healthy event, and we always try to promote health in everything we do.”

This map shows the route of the 1.2-mile walk.

The event is family friendly, with kids, strollers and pets all welcome on the race and walking paths.

Food donations also are welcome. Runners and walkers receive extra raffle tickets for prizes when they bring five or more canned food items. Medals are awarded in various age groups, and a runner’s area will be set up at the end of the course with food and music.

Cost is $22 per person before race day. Same-day registration is $25 and will begin at 6:45 a.m. at Forest Park Shelter 5.

For more, visit harvesthaul5k.hchfoodbank.org.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 13 – number of summer lunch programs HCHFB supports
  • 40K-plus – number of meals provided by HCHFB to summer lunch programs in 2017
  • 128,997 – total pounds of food distributed in 2017
  • 24,363 – pounds of food distributed in June 2017, a record for HCHFB
  • 103,186 – total pounds of food distributed in 2016
  • 75,950 – total pounds of food distributed in 2015
  • 36 – percentage of food distributed in 2017 that had to be purchased by HCHFB
  • 10.6 – percent increase in 2018 budget from 2017 ($319,250)
  • 27K – number HCHFB estimates are food insecure in Hamilton County, approximately 11,000 of which are children
  • 60-plus- number of food drives HCHFB coordinated in 2017
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