By: Mark Hall
We love hearing from all our neighbors, those who donate, take food, pantry hosts, volunteers, sponsors, and yes, even those who criticize what we do. This month’s column is an “Ask Us Anything” article, featuring answers to a few recent questions the team has received.
Michelle from Fortville asks, how do you decide where the pantries go? Great question, thank you for asking. We research location requests and potential new locations that the team identifies using data from the American Community Survey (part of the Census). Based on area maps of family sizes and income ranges, we do our best to locate pantries within a few miles of neighborhoods with a concentration of what are referred to as GAP families. These are families that make too much money to qualify for public assistance but not so much that a large, unexpected bill doesn’t hurt their ability to feed their family. Over the years we have also partnered with civic organizations, churches, schools, and government agencies to locate pantries where families who might one day be in need often frequent.
Suzanne from Sheridan asks, how come we only have one pantry in Sheridan? We’ve asked ourselves that same question after failing to connect with the right neighbors in Sheridan to host pantries. Frankly, it’s been a struggle until recently. Just last month we were able to meet with some folks from Sheridan schools and we are beginning the process of building and deploying two more pantries in Sheridan. Stay tuned, more pantries are coming.
Roberta asks do you allow fresh produce in your pantries. The answer is yes, but we’d prefer that they be placed on a cardboard box next to a pantry. Fresh produce inside a pantry quickly becomes bad produce. During the warmer months this happens quite a bit, great neighbors with big gardens donate lots of extra produce and we are grateful for any donations.
Tom from Noblesville writes that canned and boxed food can go bad if it freezes and thaws or in extreme heat. He wonders how we address this. Great question. Before deployment, food is securely staged at our facility. Before being stocked in a pantry, food packaging, seals and expiration dates are checked. Anything potentially compromised is discarded and never makes it into a pantry. Volunteers regularly stock and check their pantries for any issues with food, maintenance, and trash. Volunteers rotate out food that has remained in a pantry too long. Pantries are vented and enclosed as added protection to food product. Admittedly, our team can’t be at every pantry every day, so as an additional protection, written warnings are posted inside of the pantries in English and Spanish (CREOL where needed) reminding neighbors to check expiration dates, seals, and packaging before consuming food taken from a pantry.
It’s also important to realize that hundreds of families stop by one of our pantries regularly. Canned and boxed food seldom stays in a pantry for more than a few days. Over several years of providing food to our neighbors we have had one canned food item go bad because it popped its seal. Attentiveness and high product turnover address the concerns in your question.
Over extended periods of time, high heat or freezing and thawing can compromise food in a pantry. The Feeding Team pantry model is designed to provide a few meals for many families. Especially GAP families, those that don’t qualify for public assistance or those that are embarrassed about being in need and who don’t want any required registration. What may just be a wooden box to some people, is a survival lifeline that feeds children to others. With over 44,000 food challenged neighbors in Hamilton County, www.Feedingteam.org is a registered 501C3 not for profit organization that provides outdoor 24x7x365 no questions asked, free food pantries throughout the county. The pantries exist, to meet the food insecurity needs of GAP families, neighbors that may not qualify for public assistance and could use a few meals before payday. The pantries serve as many food-challenged neighbors as possible, and our hearts are with those that, like my family, could not always make ends meet.
Thank you for supporting the pantries. We love serving with so many neighbors across Hamilton County. In future columns we will share more stories about how your generosity served neighbors in times of need. The face of hunger in Hamilton County is not what you may think.
In practical terms this straightforward way to help neighbors is having a real impact on lives, families, and our communities. Thank you. A few meals can change the course of a person’s life. A can of green beans means so much more when you have nothing to feed your kids. Would you like to get involved? Volunteer opportunities are available. We are evaluating new pantry locations. If you think you have a potential area location, please contact us. www.feedingteam.org facts – 54 pantries, 10,000 meals in June 2023, over thirty volunteer families. Mark & Lisa Hall are the Founders of The Feeding Team. They may be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] or 317-832-1123.
– Mark Hall is a successful businessman, husband, father and grandfather. He is serving his first term on the Hamilton County Council.