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A Charitable Christmas in July: Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana

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You can help raise funds for a number of charitable causes this year by simply liking, commenting or sharing on Balsam Hill’s Facebook page. From July 1 to 31, we will be publishing posts for which a like is worth $0.50, while a comment or a share is worth $1. On July 31, we will publish a special post where you can comment with the name of your chosen charity to contribute $1 to the cause involved.

Volunteers help repack recaptured food that will be distributed by the food bank to the hungry (Photo courtesy of Sincerely, Sarah D)

Joining A Charitable Christmas in July is the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. Read on to get to know this charity through a brief Q&A:

Could you tell us more about your charity and its advocacy?

With a vision to see people in East Central Indiana self-sufficient and free from hunger, our mission is to provide help for today by feeding the hungry, and hope for tomorrow by addressing the causes of food insecurity while empowering people toward self-sufficiency. We provide relief from food insecurity by recapturing some of the available food in the area that has been deemed unsellable, but is still nutritious and wholesome, and we redistribute that food to a food-insecure population of over 70,000 people in 8 counties. Our programs are designed to impact the struggling segment of the population by utilizing the resources that can be provided by the self-sufficient segment of the population. This can be money, time, and talent that is needed to work with the less fortunate in their walk toward self-sufficiency. We have a responsibility to help educate the “haves” and the “have nots” about each other in such a way that will create positive dialogue aimed at positive change. We also are charged with advocacy with all elected officials on behalf of those who have no political clout or voice.

A volunteer checking food to be redistributed

What inspired the charity to be created, and how did it all begin?

The food bank model began with one man, John VanHingle, in Phoenix, AZ in the 1960s who observed large amounts of food being thrown away at local grocery stores. He was successful in getting the stores to donate the food they were tossing to him for re-distribution to families who were struggling to eat. From there, the movement spread and became the largest national organization targeting food insecurity – Feeding America. In July 1983, an impassioned group of people in Anderson, IN saw the need for a central warehouse to support local food assistance programs in their area, and the East Central Regional Indiana Food Bank was born – now called Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. With the support of the community, the food bank grew, became a member of Feeding America (America’s Second Harvest at that time), and now serves over 70,000 food-insecure men, women, and children.

Young volunteers at the food bank

In what ways does Second Harvest give back to the community?

We are at the forefront in the discussion of food insecurity in our eight counties, and we supply the vast majority of food for hunger relief programs offered in our service area – distributing almost 8 million pounds of food in 2016. Our programs also focus on providing people with resources they need to transition out of poverty and toward self-sufficiency. Within the wider community, we are engaged in leadership on topics that coordinate efforts of multiple service providers aimed at all aspects of what the struggling population is facing.

What challenges does your organization usually face, and how do you overcome them?

Many challenges we face, such as lack of awareness or support, often stem from a lack of understanding the root causes of poverty and what barriers the struggling population face to try to overcome them. We work with a number of groups to help educate the public and provide opportunities for people to volunteer to assist in this work.

What misconception(s) regarding hunger would you would like to correct?

One of the main misconceptions regarding hunger involves the individuals and families who utilize our programs and need help meeting their basic needs. Laziness is not the primary cause of food insecurity. Many factors are present that affect why or when someone may need help, and we respond with programs that provide immediate help, as well as resources to support long-term change. Generational poverty is very difficult to overcome, but that can be accomplished with the right training and relationships. Another misconception involves the production of food. There is already enough food being produced and wasted in this country to end hunger, but it is not readily available or accessible to those who need it. That is where food banks play a large role in re-distributing food that is in perfectly good condition to eat but would otherwise be wasted.

If you could give any advice to families that are in need of food assistance, what would it be?

Do not feel ashamed of needing to ask for help. Hold your head up and know you’re doing the best you can. Utilize food assistance agencies to their full potential so you can stretch your dollars further to cover other needs. Consider what circumstances in your life need to change in order for you to be on a path toward self-sufficiency and then consider if you are open to seeing it through. If you are, we have the tools for you to use to make that happen.

Now on its fourth consecutive year, A Charitable Christmas in July is Balsam Hill’s way of giving back to the community. This year’s partners include the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Idaho, Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana, Ronald McDonald House and Point Hope.

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