Community Harvest hosted several Indiana State Senators and Representatives on Wednesday, August 21 for a food bank tour and discussion on hunger relief in northeast Indiana. This is part of a larger effort to find sustainable solutions to the issue of hunger, its causes, and solving the problem here in our region.
Carmen Cumberland, Community Harvest Executive President, and John Wolf, Community Harvest Chief Executive Officer, led the tour and shared details about the food bank’s efforts to provide help to all families in need.
“It takes all of us,” said Cumberland. “Community is in our name, and we strongly believe in community. When we reach out for help, the community is the first to respond.”
The food bank is a regional member of Feeding America and currently partners with nearly 400 nonprofit member agencies throughout northeast Indiana. Through programs and partnerships, food insecure individuals and families receive assistance in the counties of Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells, and Whitley.
The Senators and Representatives saw first-hand the programs offered, including SeniorPak, Community Cupboard pantry, and other food bank programs designed to meet the needs of those struggling with hardship.
Community Harvest has also been a recipient of a higher than usual volume of USDA commodities, which has been distributed directly to families and to pantries in northeast Indiana. Families also receive assistance at Community Harvest through donations of food from partners such as Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, Target, and other retail partners and local farms.
“Our biggest need right now is in transportation,” said Wolf. “We currently have 10 trucks that pick up and deliver food throughout nine counties. At 35,000 miles added each year, they have an approximate 7-year useful life. That means that just about every year, we are in need of a new truck.”
Alongside food, transportation is the backbone of food bank operations in northeast Indiana and elsewhere. The food bank distributed more than 13.8 million pounds of food during the previous year, most of it transported daily throughout the region into identified food deserts in both urban and rural areas.
After touring the Tillman Road food bank facility in South Fort Wayne, the group moved to Community Harvest’s second location on North Coliseum Blvd. This building primarily houses USDA commodity food product, as well as its innovative blanch and freeze produce preservation system.
Volunteers were processing corn to freeze for later distribution to families in northeast Indiana. In addition, Community Harvest partners with several businesses that rent the facilities to store product and use the available commercial kitchen.
“At the end of the day,” said Wolf, “We are trying to do a good thing and help people in need. Even though 5,000 fewer people identify as food insecure compared to last year, we have 80,000 in our nine-county region that still need assistance and our community’s support.”
Established in 1983, Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana, Inc. feeds 21,100 people every week. Last year, CHFB distributed 13.8 million pounds of food to nearly 85,000 unique individuals. Chris Gomez serves as Board Chair, Carmen Cumberland serves as Executive President, and John Wolf serves as the Chief Executive Officer. Community Harvest is one of 200 Feeding America member food banks in the United States, and one of 11 regional members of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry. Community Harvest feeds hungry people in the nine counties of northeast Indiana. For more information, please visit www.chfb.org.