Local Ownership is Very Important

It appears that good news is on the horizon for SNAP recipients. Communication from the State FSSA office last Monday indicated that a plan had been approved by the USDA/Food and Nutrition Service so that half of SNAP benefits could be issued beginning February 22nd and the other half could be issued on the regular March staggered issuance date. This approval is welcome news for SNAP families who have been waiting in limbo for a decision that would provide benefits to them for a least another month. At this point, month to month is better than no decision that would cause a significant gap in stability for many families with few options for food.

Over the years, many conversations with members of the general public get to the question of our funding. Some have expressed that they thought our organization was funded and owned by the government. We are not, never have been and most likely, never will be owned by the government. We’re a member of a national network of regional food banks in an organization called Feeding America. The Feeding America office is an organizing body for communication, food sourcing, coordination between member food banks, advocacy, food safety and much more. Feeding America owns no trucks, has no drivers or any food inventory, but is a vital connector for all that and many other resources. They’re located in a couple of floors of offices in downtown Chicago.  Grant opportunities to the membership are available through corporate relationships they develop on our behalf. Our national network of food banks are essentially a group of over 200 independent operators who must operate under best practice industry-based general guidelines for compliance with our contract.  We’re closely audited on a bi-annual basis with a 2 day visit in our facility and meeting with our board of directors to review the report. Our next audit will be in March, 2019.

As to the government funding, yes, we have a small dollar contract with the USDA managed through the State Board of Health to distribute the TEFAP government commodity purchases. This contract is about 4% of our annual budget and represents 20% of all the food we distribute. This is significantly under-funded, but that’s not really new. We are also prohibited from asking the agencies who receive the TEFAP products from us to pay a fee to receive it or a fee to deliver it to their door. The product is good and is a big benefit for the end user, but the financial model leaves a lot to be desired.

All that said, so who are the owners of Second Harvest, since it’s not the government or Feeding America? You are, the general public. And, we love to have owners come to our facility and see what they own! Can you imagine owning a local business and never visiting it to see and understand what you have invested in? We’re spending more time today than I can ever remember reaching out to our investors to invite you in for a tour. Our Donor Relations Manager, Dianne Hovermale and I are always excited to have the opportunity to connect you with our whole team and have a conversation as we tour to explain all the ways we’re engaged in this 8 county region. We also place great value on your time investment as well. Our Volunteer Coordinator, Kellie Arrowood is anxious to connect you to ways you can personally get hands on with the many community efforts we have going on. Please don’t hesitate to accept our call, contact us at 765-287-8698 or curehunger.org and take us up on the offer to visit what you own.

by Tim Kean

 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 provide food assistance and relationship building to more than 67,000 low-income people facing daily instability in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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