Remnants of the Hurricane are Still Impacting People

I met Eloy Lora-Trejo Jr. in Dallas last week while attending a Feeding America Fall Conference. Eloy was not with a food bank. He is part of the staff of the Westin Hotel where the conference was held. When we struck up the conversation on Thursday, he told me that he had joined the Westin team in Dallas on Monday. I was a bit taken back at his ease in his new surroundings. He was engaging and made me feel very comfortable as if I was talking to someone I had known for a while. We talked for a minute about the local weather which was a line of strong thunderstorms moving through the area. I shared with him that I had arrived on Tuesday night and had taken public transportation from the airport to where I thought the hotel to be and had gotten within 4 blocks where I had to get off the bus.

The storm was raging and I had to walk carrying my luggage trying to navigate unfamiliar territory in a driving rain at night. My glasses were of no use and reading street signs was really difficult. I managed to take a wrong turn and headed in the wrong direction. The water was over my shoes as I crossed each street and no one was around to ask for directions. I did run across 3 young women huddling under one umbrella and walking quickly coming in the opposite direction across the street. They were laughing hysterically, but I can’t imagine who they were laughing at.
I got to the hotel and was greeted with gasps and jaws dropping as I entered the registration area with other people checking in. The person behind the counter called to get me a couple of towels, but I told him he just needed to get a mop for the puddle I left on the floor. I peeled off the soaking wet clothes and hung them over the bath tub, they dried 2 days later but the shoes didn’t. It really didn’t matter, it was just stuff.

Eloy shared with me that it was not his first week in the hotel industry. He was a supervisor at the JW Marriott on Marco Island up until 2 weeks before. He was there when Hurricane Irma hit the gulf coast. The storm surge completely flooded out the property with lots of collateral damage. His own home had been without power for over 2 weeks. He had invited his displaced friends who were completely wiped out to move in with him so they could at least have a place to sleep.

Eloy’s company had contacted him and said if he wanted they would send him to Dallas to work at the Westin who was short-staffed until things could get back to normal on Marco Island. The management of the Westin was allowing him to live there during his time to work on the property. He was talking about how truly blessed he was to have been connected with this opportunity during this transitional time. He was in communication with his friends who are still staying at his home until their circumstances change, but that could be some time as well. He was as cordial and accommodating as anyone you could ever want to meet and his home and surroundings were literally in shambles, how gracious is that! You could tell the guy was a “pro” in his field and was completely genuine.

Life happens to everyone. Sometimes it’s wet clothes and sometimes you’re completely displaced for months. Next time it could be the other way around. I hope I could rise to the occasion and follow his example. Let’s not forget to consider the other person while standing in wet shoes.

Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies and programs provides food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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September is Hunger Action Month

September is Hunger Action Month as defined by Feeding America, our national affiliate. The official color for HAM is Orange. The official Hunger Action Day was Thursday, September 14th. Our office entry is decked out for all volunteers to see and get caught up in the effort. Thanks to Will Britton, husband of Stacy Britton, our Coach for our Poverty Alleviation program we have a fantastic full-size graphic of an action hero, complete with cape and tights. Everyone is invited to stand behind it and place their head in the cut-out area for their official picture as a super-hero ready to make a difference for roughly 70, 000 people struggling with food insecurity in our 8 county service area. We encourage them to also snap a picture and post it on social media to their friends and followers and encourage them to get involved as well. I must say I cut quite a dashing figure in my cape and tights with a body like I never had or will have to show my support.

Orange is the hot color in our staff dress code these days. We have challenged our board to break out their favorite orange apparel (which is in short supply for most of us) and snap a picture to post their support as well. It’s not exactly the “ice bucket challenge” but across the nation we hope to set in motion some strong collective energy using the color orange to show not just concern, but action that will move the needle for some 41 million people who struggle to feed their families.

A topic that is a national tragedy we must touch on is the recovery effort in Texas, Florida and possibly other southern states as well. Our national network has already sent 347 semi-loads of food and supplies to Texas with more rolling in every day. Local interest in providing assistance was converted into action through our organization. We have sent supplies of water and paper towels to Texas through a local connection that was assembling supplies in northern Indiana right after the storm has passed. Several regional food banks in Texas were affected or closed, with many of the staffs affected in a significant way, but most have re-opened and are in operation 24/7 for the future until significant progress is made. Equipment, staff and supplies are being sent from around the network to provide round the clock operations. The coordinated effort will continue for many months to come. In Florida, a number of food banks have temporarily closed but anticipate re-opening in the next few days. Florida will no doubt be in similar circumstances and the effort by our network will pick up there as soon as the storm passes. Food and supplies are already being staged in Florida and Georgia.

If an event were to happen right here in East Central Indiana, we can be confident that all the Feeding America network support that is evident in the south right now would be deployed and would remain on-site as long as necessary for things to return to a level of normalcy. Wear your orange as often as possible this month and share your selfie to remind all your friends and family how fortunate we are at this point in time. Let’s all do what we can both locally and in disaster-stricken areas.

Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies and programs provides food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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Medical Students Get Hands-on Experience

Twenty- four 1st year medical students enrolled in the I.U. School of Medicine, I.U. Ball Memorial Campus visited our facility on August 14th for more interaction and hands on engagement with us. August 11th, Sarah Rivera, our Programs Manager, Dorica Watson, our Community Engagement Manager and I spent 2 hours in their class room to share with them some insights with poverty, food insecurity, prospective and relationships between wealth, middle income and poverty populations. We discussed our relationship with Feeding America, the national network with a reach of regional food bank touching every county in the U.S. As we moved through the discussion, the idea of what can they do and/or expect to see as doctors was shared as well. The ER is busy with lots of circumstances of people in poverty waiting too long to seek medical attention or running to the ER for every incident that may have been treatable through a family physician if they had the money to see one.

The group of 24 spent their time at our facility by taking a deeper dive into the poverty topic. After a tour, they got hands-on with helping us sort and package produce for distribution through the pantry system and other programs. We will also engaged them with a training exercise we offer to the community that asks them to pair with another student and navigate real life circumstances as a “family” in poverty could face. Another training exercise is more asset based and they will be asked to live for a month with limited resources. The last formal engagement with the students will provide them time to debrief about their experience through several presentations they will make to our team. Last year’s class spoke about how the information and hands-on experience gave them a better appreciation for the work we do, but also the life circumstances of a population that many of them will encounter professionally the rest of their working career.

As school is staring again, our rollout of new School Food Pantry Program continues. Between now and the end of 2017, we will have 14 more schools engaged in this relationship building program. The acceptance of this program has been very strong. Teachers are meeting and greeting the families they are now seeing on a regular basis. Schools who previously had parental interaction with parents in the single digits are now seeing hundreds of people on a regular basis. One school has been able to re-organize a parent- teacher organization with parents leading the way. Another school principal emailed me and said this program is the most positive thing he has experienced in 13 years as an administrator.

Community partners, both funders and volunteer groups, so far have signed on again or expanded their commitment for another year or have agreed to a multi-year commitment. The future development and expansion of this program is mapped out in a multi-year schedule with flexibility for new partnerships as they form. We will continue to engage communities in all 8 counties to consider investing in relationship building for the families and schools to positively impact the children as they move toward a sustainable future. Because we live here, we can address our community solutions by focusing on local relationships. It doesn’t require a bureaucratic national program. It requires local people to engage with other local people. This can be done whether you’re a doctor or a student.

Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies and programs provides food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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Together We Are Making An Impact – Thank You

We are getting more food out the door than last year. That is really good news. Our food distribution is up over last year by 9%. We are seeing more struggling families receive enough food to cover the average gap of 7 pounds per person per week. That number is important. When someone is able to access that amount of food in one location they not only receive enough food to cover their gap for a week, but they will not have to visit another location that week which saves time and limited resources. Being able to have a little more time and resources is sometimes all that is needed for someone to be much closer to self-sufficiency versus being dependent on a system that forces them to make multiple visits to different locations. What would your life be like if you had to visit multiple stores to get what you needed to eat and had a quarter of a tank of gas until Friday?

Educators tell us that kids do better in school when the parents are engaged and are in sync with the school staff. The School Pantry Program is designed to facilitate a positive experience to get parents and teachers talking about positive things happening with the children, who in turn respond to the positive messaging they hear at home and at school by seeing themselves in a positive path for the future. Raising a generation of kids who are aimed at a self-sufficient adulthood that will not need a safety net of social service providers is what this program is about. We all need kids to find a path (not the same path) to making it on their own and to raise their children to be self-sufficient as well. Our efforts are prioritized to make shortening the line of need our first priority.

We engage struggling families to take the steps needed to end the poverty cycle and the rest of the community to facilitate those steps by removing barriers they may not even are aware that exist. We want to change the system and drive permanent impact. If you would like to learn more about barriers, we have experienced facilitators and would love to partner with you to host a training session.

Have a great July,
President & CEO

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Growth In Programming Requires More Volunteers

In the last 18 months we have experienced substantial growth in our programming. The growth has come primarily in our School Pantry Program. We are now in partnership with 10 schools in 4 counties and we are ready to move forward with another 14 schools that would represent 7 counties. This parent-school staff relationship building program continues to grow in numbers of families who attend each month. Schools are seeing a record number of parents engage with them. This slow burn, continual interaction is providing great opportunities for parents to learn what is going on at school, discuss the progress their child is making and develop a positive impression about school visits. The big win is that the children are exposed to positive discussions every month about their education which sets the stage for improvement in academic achievement. We all want and need for these kids to do well in school so our communities can continue to produce self-sustaining young adults who are ready to further their education or technical training and fill the jobs we have available now and see in our future.

This program growth needs more volunteer engagement to allow it to expand into schools who have already expressed an interest in partnering with us. This is a great opportunity for a church to “adopt” a school and supply the volunteer needs on a regular basis. It takes a group of 4-5 people to meet the delivery truck and get the food into the building and set it up for the distribution to happen after school. It takes about 12-15 people to come to the school just before the distribution happens (usually around 4 or 4:30) and pass the food out to families until approximately 6-6:30. This normally happens once per month at each location. The total time commitment would be in the neighborhood of 3 hours per month if you volunteered for the delivery crew or the distribution crew. There is also the opportunity for the volunteer to engage deeper with the school and consider participating in a mentoring program or volunteer to be a chaperone for a field trip. These opportunities can provide a positive impression on a young child for a lifetime.

I ran across a simple explanation for Categories of Volunteering provided by BRiCKs Alliance, Inc. It breaks down volunteering in 4 ways, but I’m sure there is some overlap. 1) Give – Provide basic needs (clothing, food, money, etc.). I have something from which others can benefit. 2) Do – Provide time, skills-based support, etc. I really do not know what it is like to be in another’s situation, but I provide support in ways that I hope will help. 3) – Engage (Volunt-Hearing) My friend needs my assistance but they define what they need. Realization that this is part of my life, not a “project” I learn from the relationship about myself and my community. Two-way relationship! 4) Advocate – I have a broader understanding of my community and I learn from my relationships about systemic barriers. (I am dissatisfied with the current state.) All that said, every important effort requires collective energy to be accomplished.

There are deep needs in this community. Everyone can has something to offer from the most gifted to the least, even if you are in need, you have something to offer. We teach our children by the way we engage to assist the community to become a better place. A place where they may want to live because they can find a job, their kids can get a great education and the community works together to raise the boat we are all in. We need a few groups to work a few hours once a month so relationships will grow and kids will be in a better place because of it. Will you help? You may just love it.

Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies and programs provides food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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First Monday: Growth and Development are Always Welcome

We are looking ahead past winter and see an exciting spring on its way. Our food distribution so far in 2017 has been larger than we predicted it would be; that’s always welcomed news.

We will participle in a pilot program “Mixing Center” that will be starting at Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis in March or April. This pilot program is centered on fresh produce. The idea is to have 20-30 food banks in this region of the country who would draw from Gleaners on a weekly/monthly basis for a variety of fresh produce to meet the needs each food bank has for produce. This would allow a food bank, even a small one, to have a variety that would be in quantities workable for local distribution.

For Second Harvest, we would begin to see a consistent supply of wider variety than we have now. That would enhance our School Food Pantry Program very nicely. It would also strengthen our offerings to our agencies in our eight-county service area. This new opportunity could assist us with being able to have gaps of donation filled in with some wonderful products.

We are also moving toward the 13th graduation class of our Delaware County Circles program. The nine people who are now enrolled in this 16-week coursework will be graduating in April. This is certainly a milestone achievement for all who are currently around the table each week.

This opt-in program is designed to assist and help develop pathways toward self-sufficiency for an individual by setting Smart Goals with accountability and growth in expanded relationships with committed allies. This important first step is critical for someone to move from a life many describe as day-to-day survival up a strategic pathway to achieve self-sufficiency. The ultimate goal of this program is to see people thrive in the community free of safety net social services who contribute back through reciprocity for the betterment of all.

Tim Kean
President & CEO

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First Monday: Want To Get Out of the House and Help?

Volunteers are the backbone of what we get done. We had roughly 11,000 hours of volunteers in 2016 that were logged into our record keeping system. I’m pretty sure we had more that didn’t get registered or captured in our database. That number of hours is roughly equal to an additional 10 part time employees each working 20 hours per week!

Our volunteers come from Ball State students, faculty, business organizations, churches, service clubs, youth groups, retirees, work-release programs, service day events and schools just to name a few.

We are ready for volunteers Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and the first Saturday morning each month (unless it is a holiday weekend). You don’t need to schedule an appointment unless you are a large group (probably 12 or more), just show up and stay as long as you like. We are ready for volunteers every day. Our goal is to be the first place people think of when they want to volunteer and to provide to most positive volunteer experience that they will have.

We have all types of activities available, warehouse product sorting and packaging, clerical functions, cleaning, outdoor work with our facility upkeep, meal preparation (yes, with our Circles Program), special event assistance and others. If you would like to spend some time and connect with others who are making some great things possible contact Yolanda Velez, our Volunteer Coordinator at 765-287-8698 ext. 111 or

Have a great February,


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Tools & Talk Aimed Toward Success

Our national affiliation with Feeding America provides us with some very valuable tools to use in our programs reflected in our mission. The boiled down version of our mission is to provide Help for Today and Hope for Tomorrow. The gathering of resources includes, but not limited to – food deemed unsalable, but still nutritious and usable, the gathering of time and talents through volunteers and those who are willing to deeply engage in helping those in poverty committed to finding a way out.

The Help for Today is visible in the form of 1) semi-trucks unloading food to waiting families in cars in line for hours, 2) church food pantries serving people who walk in looking for enough resources to cover the gap in their ability to feed their families.

Hope for Tomorrow looks like 1) now in the evenings at several neighborhood schools who are creating a new positive relationship with hundreds of families while distributing food, and 2) this also can be found in weekly evening meals shared between people in poverty and those working with them to assist in finding a way out. Our Delaware County Circles Program has engaged people in poverty, middle income and wealth to regularly meet and form intentional relationships by providing a listening ear, tools and methods designed to provide a pathway out of poverty aimed at self-sufficiency.

The Map the Meal Gap study provided and updated annually by Feeding America gives us up to date data points to keep us on target with all these efforts. From this study we know that the average food insecure person has a gap of about 7 pounds of food each week that they are not able to cover from all their resources. So a family of 4 would need to secure about 28 pounds of food each week to have their food needs met and not miss any meals. This piece of data is the baseline for distribution in our School Pantry Program and how we will be working with new agencies in the future.

We are now in the midst of meetings in each of the 8 counties we serve in East Central Indiana. These County Conversations are designed for open 2-way communication with all our agencies. We hear and share plans on moving forward to manage the effort of providing hunger relief (Help for Today), and relationship building with Circles and in our neighborhood schools with staff and parents (Hope for Tomorrow). We have engaged all counties with this type of direct communication for about 4 years and it has proven to be effective. Our Program Manager, Warehouse Manager and I will be there to dialogue about questions, concerns and share ideas. This has proven to be effective in eliminating ambiguity and broken lines of communication. We would love for all agencies to participate but attendance is optional. We have much to gather. If you, the public would like to participate, we would love to work with you.

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Pulling in the Same Direction

We have a small staff compared to most food banks (regional warehouse & distribution centers) – 18 to be exact. It is very important that our staff is on the same page with our planning and efforts to drive our programming to the highest possible level of impact we can produce. We could not reach the people we reach without lots of help from lots of people.

We work with a dedicated group of agency partners who are on the front lines of distributing food to struggling people through church food pantries, soup kitchens and community centers.

These dedicated people have devoted many years to opening their doors to the community to serve as each feels called to do so by conscience or faith and sometimes both.

Our connections continue now through the school systems in several counties. We will have 12 schools in several counties now working with us to reach struggling parents and their children with not just food assistance, but new positive relationships that are building the foundation for children to improve and consider a brighter future that they had thought about before. There are even connections within each school program with local churches, businesses, organizations and individuals that have come together to foster this relationship.

We have a direct service program for food distribution in each county called the Tailgate Distribution. This is happening with the support of some very dedicated volunteers who brave the elements and use their hands and backs to get large amounts of food out to a large number of people in a short time. Many locations are staffed by unique volunteers who have stepped up to help for many years.

We are also blessed to have thousands of volunteers who come to our warehouse and help keep our office running, pack and sort food and help keep the facility very clean.

Some come for a special “community work day”. Some come for the reason of satisfying a class requirement or a service learning project, but many come just because they see a need and want to be a part of the solution.

For all of this to function smoothly requires intense coordination by this small staff of people who all are striving to do their best. We feel the effect very quickly when someone is sick or on vacation. This effort allows millions of pounds of food to get into the hands of those who would do without if we weren’t here. This food would be in the landfill and tens of thousands of people would not be eating around the table tonight. In the course of the work week it could easy to begin to take for granted all the human resources we have connection with throughout the 8 counties to make a difference for many people we will never meet. But, it is important to stop and acknowledge all who are involved and just say thank you for all you do to help us all pull in the same direction.

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We Have “Velcro” for Your School

strawhatI have an old straw hat that I wear when I mow the grass or work in the yard. Its wide brim is kind of bent up and not at all symmetrical. Inside the band is some elastic material that stretches as I put it on and it says “one size fits all”. I’ve had some odd looks from drivers as they go by, but maybe the hat had nothing to do with it. I’ve noticed I get those looks sometimes even if I am not wearing a hat, but that’s another story. I’m pretty sure that no artist of country music or farmer for that matter would be caught dead wearing a hat like this. I can’t say it feels that good when I wear it, but it keeps the sun out of my eyes and off my neck, so I wear it.

I recently bought a new baseball hat with an adjustable Velcro strip so it can be adjusted and it feels just right when I wear it. I think the person who invented Velcro is a genius. That little piece of material provides the end user with the ability to have a “custom” feel to their item of clothing and it is designed to keep the adjustment in place or let the owner adjust it as they see a need to change it.

I have had the pleasure over the last several months to meet face to face with many of principals and school superintendents in several of the counties we serve. We are discussing how we can partner them and other stakeholders in their neighborhood to engage parents of their students to come to school and participate in a meeting or activity with a food distribution component. This approach has been implemented in several schools and more are planned to begin in July, August and September.

One of the aspects about this program is the flexibility of it and the opportunity to “customize” it for each school depending on several factors.

It can be organized as often or as minimally as it needs to be to meet the school’s needs and those of the other stakeholders around the table. If area churches and/or businesses are partnering to provide funding and volunteers the frequency can be adjusted so it’s a great fit for everyone.

The principals are enthusiastic because they see the opportunity to connect with parents in a meaningful way with positive engagement to build relationships that will benefit all parties. When the school pantry food distributions occur, the parents can access a significant amount of food that will meet their needs for at least a week or more. This is a critical point because getting the right amount of food and the right kind of food to a family will have a significant impact in relieving the pressure many of them face if they had to rely on food pantries to make ends meet that week.

A visit to the average food pantry does not provide enough food to meet the family needs.

Many are faced with in inconvenience of traveling to other pantries open different days and times to try and cover the gap their resources can’t provide. Church food pantries resources are limited and have not been able to meet the need. There may be some who could still be very effective in outreach by moving from their current model to partnering with the neighborhood school along with other supporters to function with less burden and more impact for a family.
The average food insecure family of 4 has a gap of 28 pounds of food per week to meet their basic needs. Having access through your child’s school pantry to have a positive experience with their teacher and staff and walk out with having a critical basic need met is proving to be an emotional and impactful experience for many. Our post-distribution surveys are showing strong positive changes for the families and students.

Parental engagement in a child’s education can be a lifetime game-changer for a student pathway to self-sufficiency as an adult.

Food distribution can be a win-win-win for all parties to come together. We are continuing to seek out partnership opportunities with more schools and neighborhood stakeholders to begin this “custom fit” program with so many positives outcomes. Your school and the children who attend can benefit from this, so let’s get together and all do what each of us can.

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