By Lucy Harcourt
For The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — Big hearts help fill empty stomachs in Indiana. Stomachs that may once have been growling are fuller thanks to Second Harvest Food Bank north of Muncie.
“We grew up together – or at least we grew old together,” jokes Lois Rockhill, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank. Rockhill has been a part of Second Harvest for 21 of its 27 years of operation.
In 2009, Second Harvest of Madison County distributed nearly 30 percent of its eight-county resources locally. “Once the economy started going down, the need started going up. We still have had so many people needing food and needing lots of it. Even with everything the food pantries and we do, it is hard to meet the need.”
The economy has impacted The Christian Center in several ways. Originally servicing both men and women, the Center now only houses men.
“To make sure the money coming in was being used efficiently and effectively, something had to give and unfortunately our women’s shelter was compromised,” explains says Daniel Wohlberg, the Center’s PR/Marketing coordinator. The Center houses 55 to 60 residents on average.
The Center attributes keeping up with the demand to a generous community. “When there is a need, the community steps up to the plate. Right now, we are pretty well stocked thanks to restaurants, other churches, and individuals in the community who are consistently providing food items.” Wohlberg explains.
Making resources easily accessible is the aim of The Tailgate Program, coordinated by Second Harvest. The Tailgate Program provides five or more food items on a periodic schedule to people in need at a drive-through venue. Of the eight counties Second Harvest serves, Madison and Delaware Counties rank highest in need. Rockhill notes, “As far as our own distribution through the Tailgate Program, even our small counties, like Wabash, we see 400 families come through the Tailgate on a monthly basis.”
Over the next five years, Rockhill anticipates the demand will escalate.
“For the people who are low-income, it is going to take that long for them to find jobs and begin to make up for what they lost, even when the economy becomes more stable.”
The Christian Center also extends its arms to those in need of a meal. “We have a no question policy. You just get in line and are offered a meal,” states Wohlberg. The primary recipients of free meals are the Center’s residents, however anyone is welcome.
“We will be prepared for whatever 2010 throws at us, but we are not expecting anything dramatic,” said Wohlberg. Besides loc ally, can state and national levels be counted on against fighting hunger? Rockhill believes so.
“I think they are trying really hard to keep up. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) uses USDA money to purchase food for the state. The state contracts with regional food banks to distribute the product to eligible pantries. The food-stamp program is also tremendous. It is something we try to encourage to everyone who is eligible — even people who are living on the edge.”