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 smile.amazon.com 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.