The Impact of Ants and Elephants

Hopefully, by the time this is printed, the government shutdown will be over. Feeding America, our national affiliate, has been very busy with communications to Congress regarding the impact that is being felt and what an extended time frame for the shutdown might mean for tens of millions of families living on the edge or well below the level of self-sufficiency. There’s an old proverb that goes something like this – When elephants fight, the ants are the ones who pay the price. Ants, individually, are less powerful than elephants, but given the size difference ants are much stronger than elephants and are well known with their ability of working together. This reference is not intended to direct any negativity toward either political party, but as an encouragement toward both to remain in conversation, be open to ideas that may lead to a broader range of topics which could lead to some compromise with points both could claim victory. The all or nothing approach seems to further divide our country.   

On the ground, reality as of last week looks like SNAP benefits will be paid to current recipients for the rest of January. All the February benefits will be loaded on the cards in late January so the recipients will need to budget them for the entire month. March benefits or funding is to be determined, but not known if it will be available at all at this time. The TEFAP, (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) which is the old “government cheese” program, now a product line of 30-40 items, will have food continue to flow to our warehouse for distribution in all our 8 county service area through February. The product line is about 15% of our total distribution. The difficult news for us is the government will not be providing the funding for the work even though we have a contract. Beyond February, it’s anybody’s guess if this program’s food or money will be flowing back into the pipeline.

The WIC, (Women, Infants and Children) program will also be funded through the end of February. This program may be funded beyond February as some additional unspent money from 2018 has been identified.

Eventually, we may see longer lines at our Tailgate Distributions in each county. The food pantry agencies, soup kitchens and community centers who do food distributions may also see lines begin to grow. It is too early to know the impact this will have on our inventory and our ability to secure additional resources, but I can see the clouds forming on the horizon.

These circumstances are adding pressure to a large group of families who already have a lot of pressure to make ends meet. It is also putting people who have been self-sufficient into a circumstance of needing assistance to feed their family even if the circumstance is short-lived. A recent study commissioned by Fifth Third Bank found that 47% of all families in the United States are living from paycheck-to-paycheck and 63% don’t have the savings to cover a $500 car repair. That means roughly half the total population of our community would find an unexpected car repair enough to cause a financial train wreck. This may not hit home to me until it impacts me or someone in my family. It seems that the current limbo status of programs offering limited short-term relief would generate significant concern and lead to a lot of communication to federal elected officials. When enough people or ants start talking, I think all the elephants may listen. Public pressure may decide this outcome.

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Excited As A Kid At Christmas

Have you ever heard the phrase –“I’m as excited as a kid at Christmas”? In this line of work our team engages with families facing lots of circumstances that are difficult and uplifting. We are working at full speed to get as much food out the door as possible to over 67,000 struggling people who need this assistance. We see gratitude and thankfulness from people which is exciting.

We see first-hand, up close and personal through our Forward S.T.E.P.S. initiative engaged families who are committed to positive change toward self-sustainability. These are hard working families who are challenged to make ends meet, better known as ALICE families, (Asset Limited, Income Challenged, Employed) who commit to SMART goals and work with intentional community relationship partners from Middle Income and/or Wealth with mutual accountability goal-setting. The exciting part is that progress is being made! This year we have had 53 youth enrolled in our enrichment program, 13 Empowerment Leaders earned raises in their jobs and 4 leaders are new home owners. That is exciting!

We are also excited to finalize the re-branding of our School Pantry Program (I have decided that was the worst possible name that I could have come up with some 2 ½ years ago). This initiative is really focused on relationship building between parents and school staff with the long-term strategy of raising a generation of children that become parents and are involved in their children’s school as a normal activity, because they grew up that way. You may want to read it again because it may seem too simple. Reality is that both you and I do things every day because of the way we grew up. We both also don’t do things because of the way we grew up. Children are influenced in both directions at school, home and their environment (neighborhood), with others as well that I haven’t mentioned.

This initiative is all about changing the child’s perception in a positive way as they watch parents and teachers engaging in a growing dialogue aimed at benefitting the child’s educational experience. Parents see value in engaging with teachers and administrators as the relationship grows month after month. Parents and students begin to see school as safe to form and build relationships, one that is friendly and welcoming, filled with partners who are concerned about their child and finally, as a place where they can go to enjoy themselves.

Educators tell us that parental participation is significantin the educational progress that the child makes. When the child experiencesthis reinforcement over time their focus improves. This initiative is aimed ata better educational experience which can lead to broader employmentopportunities as an adult. This is our long-term strategy aimed at breaking thecycle of poverty (shortening the line of need) and dependence on assistanceprograms for them and their family. Our data gathering is in its first year andwe are excited about what we are learning. We will continue to gather the dataand share the findings as we go forward.

by Tim Kean     

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We’re Energized by You – The Community

It’s always exciting this time of year to read my email or pick up the ringing telephone and engage with an excited person who wants to get knee-deep in our mission. There are many creative approaches that people come up with to address the challenges faced by thousands in the local community. As new developments continue to be rolled out through technology advancement, the business community and even individuals shopping on-line can just click and a donation can be made by the business to the buyer’s favorite charity. Such is the case for AmazonSmile. For over 2 years now, if you are planning to order through Amazon, you can visit to easily register to have 0.5% of your purchase price to be donated by Amazon to your favorite charity.

A year ago we were experiencing low inventory levels of non-refrigerated food. The downward trend of less donations in this type of product has continued and is the long term forecast from Feeding America. Savvy warehouses and retailers continue to improve on shrink control which lowers the amount they have to donate to food banks. It’s good for them because it improves their bottom line and that’s what they’re in business to do, but it puts more pressure on food banks to find the products needed to assist struggling families. The longer-term answer is that more of our inventory and distribution will come from perishable food, both refrigerated and frozen, primarily fresh produce. This is a good, but challenging prospect. This product line is a wonderful source of healthier choices for families, but it puts pressure on families refrigerated storage capacity which is sometimes very small.

Produce also has higher costs associated with getting it than the non-refrigerated products have. As an example, getting the donated produce picked, washed and packaged can add additional costs of around $.24/lb. for apples over and above the trucking cost to get it to our food bank that may run $.04-.08/lb. already. That means those “free apples” may cost $9,600 plus $2,000 in delivery cost for a semi-load to our dock.  Freight costs have continued to rise across the country as more loads of all types of freight need moved with less available drivers to move them. More refrigerated products are also pushing our capacity in cooler space. This is a daily topic here and will be for the foreseeable future, but we need to keep pushing for more progress. The storage question can be answered by expanding our present cooler. We’re now doing our information gathering for the expansion of our cooler and our freezer.

Some immediate, but also challenging good news is that we are now getting fresh milk in truckload quantities delivered to us as part of the TEFAP program (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) that comes from the USDA. This is scheduled for the next 6 months and may continue coming in the foreseeable future, depending on decisions by the federal government.

I could not be more proud of our staff. They are a small group of dedicated, caring people who come here and do amazing things every day. Over the last 3 years, we have stretched ourselves beyond where we have traditionally been. We have morphed into areas of programming that are aimed at identifying the root causes of hunger and poverty as our top priorities. We are focused on relationship building to drive change for ALICE families (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) who seriously want to achieve a level of self-sufficiency and break the cycle of poverty. This longer term programming is a multi-year, slow burn approach that has the potential for families to make changes in their own lives that will have a generational impact to shorten the line of need.

We are committed to providing short term, emergency hunger relief FOR families (Help for Today), but are working very hard in these new program areas to engage WITH families (Hope for Tomorrow), in positive relationship building that will bring about lasting change. This carries over to the next generation and can establish a “New Normal” that can be lived out without the need for social safety net services. It is achievable and by partnering with you we remain enthusiastically optimistic about the future.

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, programs and 29 schools to provide food assistance to more than 67,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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We are moving into CRUNCH time

I can’t think of any non-profit organization that isn’t in full blown “attention to detail” mode at this moment. At Second Harvest, we are quickly moving toward the completion of our 2019 budget and our internal planning discussions are turning to the first quarter focus. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a lot of tasks to complete to finish off 2018 as planned, but, those plans were made many months ago.

This month alone, we have many thanks that go out for the effort put forth to make a difference for thousands of struggling families we reach all year long.

  • We had a great, sunny day on October 1st for our 8th annual ACC Fall Classic Golf Outing. Our sincere thanks go to the leadership and all the supporters from Ultra Steak (aka, Texas Roadhouse).
  • On Saturday, October 6th, we held our 4th annual Hot Rods for Hunger event at the Muncie Mall, where we had over 180 cars and 6 motorcycles on display. We even had someone from Ohio come to display their car. We want to offer special thanks to Mutual Bank as our Presenting Sponsor and to Muncie Mall for their partnership in hosting this event, again this year.
  • On Saturday, October 13th, we were in Elwood with our friends from Red Gold, participating in the 7th Annual Run to Crush Hunger and 33rd Chili Cook-Off. Red Gold outdid themselves again this year and had a record attendance of over 1,400 registered participants for the 10K, 5K and 1 mile events. I would say the Second Harvest team finished strong, but let’s just say we finished without injury. The Chili Cook-Off was executed flawlessly and it had to be a record attendance as well.
  • Monday, October 15th, we participated at the Hoosier Park Fall Fair to showcase our program work in Madison County.
  • Tuesday, October 16th we had our School Pantry Program at 3 schools in Madison, Delaware and Randolph counties.
  • Wednesday, October 17th we were at 3 more schools also in Delaware, Henry and Wabash counties and held a Tailgate in Jay County.
  • Thursday, October 18th at 2 more school pantries in Henry and Delaware counties and hosting our Forward S.T.E.P.S. evening meetings and meal for approximately 60 attendees.
  • Friday, October 19th in Randolph and Henry County with the Tailgate Program.

All that said, we still delivered tens of thousands of pounds of food to our 115 agency program partners in all 8 counties.

The time has also come to celebrate opportunities and voice concerns so we can address the needs of as many in the community as we can reach now and in the future. So on Tuesday, October 23rd, I will be making some comments at a press conference hosted by Midwest Food Bank in Indianapolis. Here we will announce the launch of Food Drop as a statewide initiative. This effort will make it much easier for trucking companies to contact any participating food bank to drop partial or full truckloads of food they need to off load anytime 24/7, so that the driver can keep going to the next stop. We anticipate this to be a new source of donated food or at least be a more convenient system for logistical companies.

Wednesday, October 23rd, we will be hosting a breakout session during the 3rd Annual Local Food Summit for Muncie and East Central Indiana hosted at the Ball State Alumni Center. This event is another way for anyone and everyone to get involved in the local and regional food system, cutting-edge innovations from food and farming entrepreneurs to help shape our local food landscape through policy, planning and action (as the electronic invitation indicates).

Wrapping up October, we will host our 3rd Do Good Date Night at our Second Harvest facility on Friday, October 26th. Come by yourself, with a date or in a group of friends for only $15 per ticket! Harmony Café will be catering the meal, there will be a cash bar, and lots of fun activities in our community room. Valuable information will be given about what we are doing in our communities and how you can be a part of making it happen. For tickets, visit – DoGoodDateNight. We are always looking for people/organization/businesses who want to partner with us in any of these impactful ways to lift up the community.

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, programs and 23 schools provide food assistance and long term stability skills to more than 67,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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A Day in The Life

John and Mary waited over an hour for the doors to open. They could see people inside getting things ready. It was still misty and they didn’t have an umbrella. John pulled up his hood and Mary luckily remembered to bring her hat. As they waited, others were assembling outside with them. They felt lucky that the rain had almost stopped. The grandkids kids were in school so it made their trip less like a juggling act between weather and waiting. The kids have trouble waiting and the rain would make them even less patient. Mary knew the kids would be hungry when they got home but she was confident they would all eat tonight because of the food they would get this afternoon. John was thinking he might try to contact his old employer to see if they might have a few hours a week that he could come in to work. It had been about 6 months since he had been employed there. The news that his job was eliminated just about crushed him. He had some limited mechanical skills and many in the neighborhood called on him for help when they had a need so he managed to make a few bucks. He and Mary had been pretty self-sufficient until his hours began to drop about a year ago. The kids, ages 7 and 9 came to stay after their parents had gotten in some trouble. It took 3 months for John and Mary to be granted custody, but the last 8 months have been much better for the kids. They were now in school on a regular basis with improving grades.

Getting home just before the kids got off the bus, Mary was able to put away the two bags of food they had received. There were some items that she would be able to use tonight to round out her meal ideas. A small bag of individual chocolate milk cartons would be enough for the kids to each have one for the next three days. She smiled as she thought about how surprised they would be and how they would beg her to let them have more than one. Mary had a small garden with a few tomato plants that were producing pretty well this year, so with the bacon she got from the store and the head of lettuce and loaf of bread she just received, it would be BLT’s tonight for sure. She was glad the kids liked tomatoes. One sandwich for everyone would be a pretty good meal.

John got an unexpected call back from his old employer. Someone had to have surgery and would be off work for 2-3 weeks. John would be able to work about 20 hours each week until the man was able to return. It wouldn’t make life easy, but now their electric bill wouldn’t be late. The juggling act at the end of the month would be a little less challenging barring any new surprises, but there always seemed to be one when they could least absorb it. John had been gifted with a beautiful voice and would be anxious to share the good news about his temporary job with his fellow choir members. His voice always lifted Mary’s spirits when he would sing around the house. This day would be another good one for them to remember and she was confident there would be some singing tonight as they looked forward to him going to work next week.

This day was no different than many other days for thousands of people who are struggling to make ends meet by doing things as best they can for themselves and the people around them. Our organization strives to empower people by providing some limited help for today and hope for tomorrow that will lead to long term stability.

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, programs and 23 schools provide food assistance and long term stability skills to more than

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Medical Students Get Hands-on Learning

How do 26 medical students connect with our food bank? This is the 3rd year we have engaged the class of 1st year medical students enrolled in the I.U. School of Medicine, I.U. Ball Memorial Campus. Derron Bishop, PhD, Associate Dean and Director along with Michael Litt, PhD, Associate Professor Medical Genetics have reached out to us to engage these students as part of their Service Learning Transitions 1 focusing on Health Care Disparities. August 10th, 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. We finished our time together in the class room by engaging them in a poverty exercise to see how well they could navigate a month with unpredictable circumstances of life happening while possessing very limited resources. It sorely challenged them.

The group of 26 visited our facility on August 13th for more interaction and a deeper dive into the poverty topic. After a tour, they got hands-on with helping us sort and package food products for distribution through the pantry system and other programs. We 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 that a “family” in poverty could face. 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 2018, we will have 5 more schools engaged in this relationship building program. This will take our total up to 28 schools in 7 counties. 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 had 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, programs and 23 schools provide food assistance and self-sustainability skills to more than 67,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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Looking for more Partnership Opportunities

One of the teamwork exercises I experienced in two different leadership academy programs I attended is getting into a circle with six other people and pointing both index fingers toward the person across from you. Then bend your knees and place a hula-hoop horizontally in the middle of the circle supported by all the fingers, then attempt to raise it up horizontally while everyone in the circle begins to stand up together. Everyone moves at a different pace and a different way and that’s where the challenge begins.

I’ve been a firm believer that there are many ways for 1+1 to equal 3, especially working in communities. But, I am also a believer that 3 X 3 = 9. Sounds too simple, but if we are traveling toward a destination in a row-boat, if you and I will pull the oars together, we will arrive sooner with less effort than if we row independently. I think the same is true if we find one or two more to join us and we all are pulling the oars in unison, it can mean we might have more rapid progress with again the same effort. That can mean that we all need to be willing to sacrifice some individuality for the greater good of the group and that is where the effort can become stalled or we wind up traveling in circles, not closer to the destination.

We will be rolling out our new strategic plan for the next 3 years by the end of this month. This will guide our thinking, efforts and resources with all the aspects of our organization. Reviewing the definition of how we describe who we are and what we are going to do does not happen over a cup of coffee, but lots of viewpoints from the community and internally with yes, several cups of coffee. We must be in relationship with many others in order for us to make every pull on the oar count for as much as it could. This valuable exercise helps us consider where to step on the gas and maybe where we need to let go of baggage we are dragging just because we have been doing it for several years or decades as the case may be.

This month we are celebrating our 35th anniversary. We have some wonderful organizations, Mutual Bank Charitable Foundation and The Kroger Co. who have stepped up and awarded us with a total of $35,000 as a matching opportunity during July and August. So every dollar donated can turn into 2 dollars of impact during this 2 month period. Over 35 years this organization has changed a lot. From various methods we have implemented to get food out to struggling families to our latest development with a holistic approach working with families in long-term relationship building that will break the cycle of poverty. We would like to have new conversations with businesses and organizations to help strengthen the community efforts that are currently being executed. These holistic efforts need the 3 “T’s” -Time, Talent and Treasure to equip motivated families from the resource pool toward lasting change that they create. Reach out to us to see how we might pull on the oars together and make 1+1=3 a reality, better yet 3 X 3 = 9.


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, programs and 22 schools provide food assistance and self-sustainability skills to more than 68,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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We Are Ready To Take The Next Step                       

My granddaughter is ready for a bigger bike. She lost her training wheels about a month ago. I told her a couple of weeks ago that we would go get a new bike very soon.  I’m looking forward to seeing her ride that new one, but am anxious about when the inevitable will happen, that first crash. I don’t really care that the bike might be scratched, that will continue to happen as long as she has it. I’m more anxious about her hesitancy to get up and get back on the bike. That’s a big life lesson. As you know, we all continue to learn that lesson throughout the rest of life in one way or another. I look at her accomplishment as kind of a milestone as she transitions from what was comfortable, to what is new and exciting, maybe a little scary, but time for the next step to be taken. She will continue to grow and the need to make these milestone changes will continue. Isn’t that true for the rest of us as well?

We are finishing up our new Strategic Plan for 2019 – 2021. It should be ready by the end of July. We will probably activate it in August because we’re ready to embrace it and move forward. Strategic Plans are somewhat of a milestone activity. It’s good to re-examine what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. It also is good to move into a possible new aspect of the mission or to add more depth and breadth to what we’re committed to with programs and initiatives. It may seem to have a scary side, but that probably has more to do with reaching beyond our current grasp to lean into the future of what we’re striving to achieve. We certainly don’t work in isolation, we do this with the help of thousands of community members that cover 8 counties who continue to place value in this mission. I think that demonstrates the genuine concern that exists for struggling families that make up a significant portion of the population. A recent training I attended shared that 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Also, that over 50% of Americans can’t find $500 to meet a crisis. If you find that startling, it shouldn’t be. We are actually doing better on many struggle points than in recent years, so there’s reason to be optimistic.

I am excited to be part of this great work. I think the work we do and through many other people is noble. Gathering resources (food) that would be lost to the local landfills across the country and getting it re-purposed into beneficial supplements to ease the pressure of an economic crossroads crisis is impacting tens of thousands of families in our 8 counties, if only with some short-term relief. Who benefits if we allow it to be dumped in our landfill?

We in essence are helping to cultivate relationships that are changing lives through our Forward S.T.E.P.S. initiative and our School Pantry Program. Hearing someone witness to the impact that these programs have had on their lives and the lives of their children is motivational to say the least. If an employer has recognized a difference in an employee that has resulted in a raise, promotion or just some recognition to boost that employee’s morale we can celebrate the work and encourage the journey to continue. When children are demonstrating positive behavior and are engaging more in the classroom we can celebrate the work. These results are from relationship building. Many of our community partners help us facilitate these building blocks that are foundational to sustainable change, one family at a time. That may not sound like much unless you’re one of the families. We have a great staff team that take their role seriously because lives of people are being affected. We celebrate the work, just not often enough, and invite you to join us for the role you feel called to fill. Together, we can see this community take the next step.


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, programs and 22 schools provide food assistance and self-sustainability skills to more than 68,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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Food Insecurity Continues to Drop

Map the Meal Gap is an annual study released by Feeding America to identify food insecurity by county across the country. This study is funded by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, (son of Warren Buffett), Conagra Brands Foundation and Nielson. The 2018 data has just been released and continues to show a decrease from the previous year, a trend reflected since 2012. In our 8 county region the number of individuals is now 67,960 which is a 3.2% drop from 2017 and a 15.7% drop since 2012 when the number was 80,620. The number of food insecure children dropped as well for 2018 to 19,580 and is a 6.4% drop from 2017 and a 28.2% drop since 2011 when the number was 27,290. This is a positive sign for sure with many contributing factors. If families are able to find living wage employment, then maybe we can see this trend continue.

The county level data for food insecurity has some variation with Delaware County being the highest at 16.9% for all people and Wabash County, the lowest at 12.1%. The data for children has Grant County the highest at 21.9% and Blackford County the least at 18.1%. So with roughly 1 in 6 people and 1 in 5 children struggling on a regular basis so there is still much work to be done.

The common “knee-jerk” reaction to this has typically been for Congress to set their sights on cutting SNAP benefits. This is a hot topic right now as the House version of the Farm Bill that is being crafted as we speak. If the proposed cuts are passed to pay for the recent tax cuts, the impact would affect millions of families who are still in need of the benefit to feed their families on a weekly basis. This program assists families who are elderly, disabled, unemployed, unemployable or who are working but fall under the wage ceiling for the benefits. What is needed is for Congress to change the program to eliminate the “cliff effect” for families. The “cliff effect” is when a family has been receiving SNAP benefits and by getting a small incremental wage increase, which is less than the benefit they have been receiving is then having that benefit completely removed, which puts them in a worse financial position then prior to receiving the wage increase. It has the same impact of getting a raise of $40 more per month that puts you over the earning limit by $10, getting dropped from the program and losing $120 a month in the benefit. A stair step approach to the reduction of the benefit to avoid the “cliff effect” doesn’t seem too difficult a concept to understand, but so far no one in Congress seems to have figured that out. I don’t envy Congress, it must be difficult to develop a positive pathway for struggling families, if that may not get you re-elected. The “cut off” of the current program does not provide struggling families the incentive to progress and become more self-sufficient. SNAP benefits are the most cost efficient way to assist a struggling family. It is way more cost efficient than providing assistance through a food pantry, soup kitchen or a food bank. “The Feeding America nationwide network of food banks works hard to deliver more than 4 billion meals annually to people facing hunger, yet the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) serves 12 meals for every one meal provided through our network,” said Matt Knott, president of Feeding America.





Additionally the new report shows, 25% of East Central Indiana residents who are food insecure make too much money to qualify for SNAP but don’t earn enough to meet their monthly living expenses. ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) families are caught between a rock and a hard place regardless of what happens with SNAP. We’re excited about a downward trend with food insecurity, but much is left to do with families to walk with them toward self-sufficiency.

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, programs and 22 schools provide food assistance and self-sustainability skills to more than 67,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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Nutritious Foods Can Feed Your Mind

We have moved from simply distributing food (which is far from simple) to working with people in a holistic way. We are constantly engaged in getting food into our warehouse and out to 115 agencies and 22 schools in 8 counties providing “Help for Today”. We are also engaged daily in assisting families with soft skill development, community barriers, financial literacy, cliff effect, budgeting, youth leadership, youth self-sufficiency skills, relationship building with teachers and smart goal setting (Hope for Tomorrow). This combination of immediate and forward future is what we believe will shorten the line of need. It’s more difficult to discuss goal setting when your belly is growling.

Last month this article was focused on asking for your feedback because we love to hear what you think. It provides a great opportunity for meaningful dialogue and clarity on topics that are multifaceted and have some spider web-like characteristics. I did have someone reach out to me and express a few viewpoints on nutritional food versus something less nutritional and our responsibility in that picture. I agree wholeheartedly that we should offer food with high nutritional value to people who are struggling. I also know that because we gather and distribute mostly donated food we cannot control the type of food a company wants/needs to donate.

We are extremely fortunate that we have a very high percentage of fresh produce to offer families. Of the 28 categories of products we handle, fresh produce has been the largest for many years. In 2017, over 30% of all our distribution was fresh produce (over 2.3 million pounds). This year it is currently over 33%. It’s also good to keep in mind that distributing a loaf of bread that has a date on the package of 2 days ago does not make the bread a bad product. We operate our inventory control from guidelines provided from the USDA and Cornell University in a book called the Food Keeper. Did you know that when stored under proper refrigeration that milk can be kept for a week past the date on the carton? Ketchup can be kept 6 months under refrigeration after being opened and mustard is 12 months. In dry storage (your pantry), canned carrots, corn or peas are up to 5 years. Thankfully or not, our inventory turns much faster than reaching any of these limits.

The bottom line is that we are not attempting to provide complete meal components, but are focused on sharing supplemental items as they are available to help offset food expenses and we place a heavy emphasis on nutritious fresh food. We also think it is totally acceptable to ask people to sort or trim fresh products that they receive. Distributing 5 pounds of something and asking the end user to sort it to have 4 useable pounds is part of getting the resource distributed with the bare minimum of cost involved. The end user actually pays nothing for the products, but does have an investment of time and transportation. We nor our agency partners should be considered a grocery store, but more of a gleaning operation to use what is still useable that others have discarded.

The Hope for Tomorrow is to connect people with resources, tools and skills that they in turn utilize toward building a self-sustaining path in life. We believe it can and should start with children, families and schools. Our focus must also continue to work with the individual family unit by walking with them as they identify smart goals that are unique to them assisted by intentional accountability partners. We have defined that aspect of our focus as Forward STEPS. As part of Hope for Tomorrow, this initiative has the tools and accountability for a highly-motivated family to break the cycle of poverty and shorten the line of need, which is what we all want to see.

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, programs and 22 schools provide food assistance and self-sustainability skills 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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