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Hungering to serve those in great need

Food bank nears its $5 million goal for facilities upgrades

There’s a local family where two brothers trade eating every other day because the family can’t afford to feed them both every day. There are parents who have to choose between paying the heating bill and buying food. There are children on school food programs who don’t eat a full meal on weekends, so being hungry is the only reason they look forward to going to school on Monday.

Community Harvest of Northeast Indiana is, for many, the reason they don’t go hungry.

Hunger is basic. It may be a symptom, rather than a root problem, and some, understandably, wish to help cure social ills where they start, through empowerment and education. But, for me, that’s like surgery without anesthesia. A hungry child can’t learn in school, a hungry worker won’t be as productive as possible, and a hungry mother’s infant will not be as healthy as it should be.

Community Harvest is hundreds of dedicated volunteers, donors and staff coming together to help make sure that not one man, woman or child goes to bed hungry. And, as hard as they try, they fail every day for lack of sufficient resources.

Yet they do so much! Community Harvest provides assistance to more than 90,000 clients annually, meaning that one out of seven people in our nine-county service area is directly affected every day. During 2012, 11 million pounds of food was distributed, 53 percent in Allen County, which was 1 million pounds more than in 2011.

Now, we’re engaged in a campaign to raise $5 million to renovate our two facilities and to replace an aging fleet of vehicles. So far, we’ve raised $4.6 million and recently completed work on our Tillman Road facility, where every Saturday morning an average of 575 heads of households, representing 2,200 family members, line up for hours to take home fresh produce, dairy products and baked goods, and where our Community Cupboard and Back Pack (food that goes home with children over the weekend) programs are located.

Our north facility still requires renovation to be fully functional as a distribution center for the more than 430 partner agencies – food kitchens, churches and social service organizations – that work with us on a daily basis.

One of Executive Director Jane Avery’s dreams is to build a “blanch and freeze” operation at the north facility, which would allow us to collect, store and distribute quality produce year-round, rather than just at harvest time. This program will cost $200,000 to establish and will be the first of its kind in the country.

The need is great – and growing. We’ve almost reached our goal – thanks to many dozens of foundations, businesses and individuals – and you can help get us there and have a truly meaningful effect on your community.

To learn more about the “Hunger: Help Us Fill The Need” campaign, to make a contribution, or to have a tour of our facilities, please call 447-3696.

Christopher Guerin is chairman of the Community Harvest Capital Campaign. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.