The need is still there. Perhaps it always will be.
The Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana this week celebrated 30 years of serving local communities.
That was not the original plan.
As Executive Director Jane Avery told The Journal Gazette’s Vivian Sade, the loss of International Harvester in 1983 led to the creation of the food bank.
The organization was meant to be a temporary means to help the hundreds of people who were left jobless.
But, as Avery put it, there is always need. The food bank, the largest relief organization in the region, now distributes 250,000 pounds of food to 21,100 people every week and helps more than 90,000 individuals each year. About 1,500 families per month visit the Community Cupboard referral-based pantry to get groceries.
It may surprise some that the demand for food is so high now since we’ve slowly climbed out of the Great Recession of a few years ago.
Has it gotten better? Avery asks. Negligibly. But new kinds of hard times have brought new kinds of clients to the food bank. Not just people who have lost their jobs but people who are working hard in jobs that can’t sustain their families.
The majority of the people we serve are the working poor, Avery says.
A lot of the stigma attached to asking for food has been erased.
When Avery came to the food bank in 1996, pride kept many in need from asking for help. Only 1 percent of its clients were men. Presumably out of embarrassment, most men sat in the car while their wives went in or they didn’t ask for help at all.
Nowadays, there is more recognition that anyone could find him- or herself in need and that, as Avery puts it, we are neighbors helping neighbors.
Thirty percent of the food bank’s clients are men.
Hundreds of homebound seniors depend on the food bank now, and the organization serves 1,465 meals per month at eight program sites.
In years ahead, Avery predicts that the food bank will feel the effects as the baby boomer generation grows older.
It’s always something, she says. Jobs, disasters, aging. The need isn’t going away.
Congratulations to Avery, her staff, the 7,000 volunteers and numerous donors whose work, compassion and generosity have kept hunger from the doors of so many people in the past three decades.