The Hancock County Food Pantry’s mission is to secure and distribute food to the needy in an effort to alleviate hunger in Hancock County. The Hancock County Food Pantry is a 100% volunteer organization with over 100 volunteers. The Food Pantry is governed by a Board of Directors who meet bi-monthly.
The Food Pantry secures food and non-food essentials (toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc.) through purchases and donations. The Food Pantry purchases about half of what is distributed at significantly reduced costs through organizations such as Gleaners Food Bank and Save-A-Lot. Donated items are received from individuals, churches, businesses, and organizations as well as the Midwest Food Bank, Abrahams & Sons, USPS food drive, 40,000 Pounds of Giving, the USDA, and local grocery chains. We serve residents of Hancock County who meet government minimum income guidelines during six weekly open hours. We give each household in their monthly visit to the Food Pantry food for 7-10 days; enough to tide them over until their next month’s paycheck or SNAP vouchers.
Additional programs have been implemented to assist various seasonal and demographic needs of our clients. These include:
- Summer Children’s Food Program – this program allows families with children to receive additional food while the children are at home during the summer months. This program is funded by donations to and administered by the Food Pantry.
- Christmas Basket Meal – about 700 Christmas meals were given out in 2013 in addition to each client’s normal food distribution. This program is funded by donations to and administered by the Food Pantry.
- BackSack Program – many of the families we serve include children and in 2011 we partnered with the Gleaners Food Bank to implement the BackSack program within our county school systems. The BackSack program provides packaged weekend meals to middle and elementary students with food insecurity. In the 2013-2014 school year, elementary schools in the Greenfield Central, Mount Vernon, and Eastern Hancock School Systems were served a total of 204 BackSacks per week. This program is funded by Gleaners Food Bank and the Food Pantry functions as a Community Partner to distribute the BackSacks to each school system.
- Gleaners Mobile Food Pantry – we sponsor monthly Mobile Food Pantry trucks to the Fortville and Greenfield areas. These mobile trucks provide additional food for those with food insecurity. This program is funded by Gleaners Food Bank and the volunteer base is coordinated between the Food Pantry, Vernon Township Trustee, and area churches and service organizations.
- Fortville Shut-in Assistance Program – In 2013, we initiated a program in the Fortville area to assist shut-ins. This program is in collaboration with the Vernon Township Trustee and the Fortville Lion’s Club. Currently, about 13 shut-ins receive food monthly. Individuals from the Fortville Lion’s Club and others act as proxies for shut-ins and collect and deliver food from the Food Pantry to the shut-ins. This program is funded and administered by the Food Pantry.
- Hoosiercorps Volunteer Program – The Food Pantry also supports individuals who require community service hours to satisfy court agreements. Recently, we have accepted individuals in the HoosierCorps volunteer program. HoosierCorps is a volunteer program for individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are now receiving mortgage assistance. As a part of the Hardest Hit Fund, participants must return to school, receive job training, or volunteer in the community.
- Milk Purchase – In 2014, the Food Pantry felt led to and initiated purchasing milk to supply to each family, i.e., approximately 640 gallons per month. By doing this, the Food Pantry supplies the three basic staples: bread, eggs, and milk. The Board of Directors passed an unbalanced budget for 2014, the increase in expenditures largely reflected by the purchase of milk.
The Hancock County Food Pantry served an average of 649 families with food insecurity including 181 seniors each month in 2013. These numbers have increased annually in recent years and are up significantly from 2008. An estimated 800,000 pounds of food was distributed in 2013.
We frequently ask ourselves the question, “Are we helping or enabling?” In other words, are we serving our community well, or are we a disservice to the community by creating food dependency? In 2012, 60% (51% in 2010) of the families visited the pantry 3 times or less in the year and 705 families served in 2011 were not served at all in 2012. Clearly for these families, the Food Pantry functioned as a stop-gap measure in their time of need, i.e., we helped them. Only 4.8% (~9% in 2010) of the families in 2012 visited the Food Pantry chronically; 10 times or more in the year. These data demonstrate that our primary clientele are those that suffer from temporary food insecurity due to unforeseen life circumstances.