By Ryne Ruddock
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON – Food distributions to the needy have been temporarily halted in parts of an eight-county region, including Madison County, due to a drop in donations, officials said Thursday.
Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana, which is the chief supplier in distributing food to the needy, made the decision after seeing a 60 percent drop in donations.
“We’re struggling to get produce donations. We have 110 agencies and programs in eight counties, and inventory has tightened up on us, so we can’t distribute produce that we don’t have,” said Tim Kean, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank.
Kean said that the donations Second Harvest receives are down, leaving less food and produce to distribute.
“We’re struggling to get produce donations. We have 110 agencies and programs in eight counties, and inventory has tightened up on us, so we can’t distribute produce that we don’t have,” Kean said.
The Muncie-based food bank works with various distributors and agencies to obtain food and then send it out to local facilities in an eight-county region. Essentially, agencies such as the Madison County Community Health Center and the Anderson Impact Center distribute food items to areas in Madison County that Second Harvest cannot reach.
Recently, Second Harvest stopped distributions to the Community Health Center, 1547 Ohio Ave., and the Impact Center, 630 Nichol Ave.
“We were notified quite recently that our produce donations would be suspended until their inventory picked back up,” said Sherry Peak-Davis of the Anderson Impact Center.
Peak-Davis said Second Harvest provides produce for the center's food donations, so the temporary halt in produce has put the Impact Center in a tight spot. The center served about 400 people at its most recent giveaway.
However, Peak-Davis said there are other food giveaway sites in the area, such as Elwood Community Pantry, Chesterfield Community Pantry and the Lapel Community Pantry. Each of the giveaway sites are listed on a pamphlet at the Impact Center and do have produce when it is available to be ordered.
Similarly, the Madison County Community Health Center suspended distribution on May 20. It distributes specifically produce, said Michael Casuscelli of the health center. The health center served about 380 families, amounting to about 1,000 people, at the last giveaway.
Casuscelli said, “All produce comes from them. We are partners with them in the distribution of the produce. The limited produce they now have does not allow them to keep the program anymore. They reached out to us and asked for help. We are completely dependent on their distribution; we do not bring in food or donations ourselves.”
Kean said there is no timetable set for the distribution to return.
“Wal-Mart in Gas City is our biggest supplier,” said Kean. “There is no way to predict the amount of food and produce we will have to distribute, because it depends on a variety of factors. We are struggling to get produce donations.”
Kean said some factors, such as bad weather and produce prices, play a role in the donations they receive. In addition, suppliers could be keeping closer monitoring of their inventories.
In response to the need, Casuscelli said that he and the Community Health Center have contacted other food suppliers but no arrangement has been set up.
“We don’t deal with bringing the food and produce in, but we do understand how important the distribution is to families in Madison County and want to help with the process. We have the volunteers and resources available to help a company like Second Harvest, but donations are low right now.”
Some food pantry sites don't rely solely on donations through Second Harvest Food Bank. The following agencies can order produce from Second Harvest when it's available: Alexandria Emergency Relief and Food Pantry, Anderson First Friends, Apostolic Lighthouse Church, Chesterfield Community Food Pantry, East Lynn Christian Church, Elwood Ministerial Association, Fifth Street United Methodist Church, Frankton Christian Church Food Pantry, Ingalls First United Methodist Church, Lapel Community Food Pantry, Markleville Town Hall, Operation Love Ministries, Park Place Community Center, Pendleton First United Methodist Church, St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Salvation Army Anderson, Second Harvest Tailgate Pantry and South Madison Christian Church.