The Heart Of A Host

By: Mark Hall

Pantries 56 and 57 were placed in service this past week, both were loaded in the back of a Gaylor Electric truck, driven to their permanent locations, and set up in Westfield along high traffic roads. Driving away from the second deployment I was caught up reflecting on all the families that are a part of Families that donate, volunteer, stock, organize, clean, fundraise and especially those that shop from one of the pantries. What occurred to me is that there is something that I’ve not communicated very well over the years. Each pantry must be hosted by someone. We are so very grateful for those who host our pantries.

This month’s column focuses on a critical part of, our pantry hosts. Years ago, our first host, Hamilton County FOP Lodge 103 in conjunction with Hamilton County Parks, will always be special because they took the first pantry in Morse Beach Park. Since those beginnings pantry hosts include schools, businesses, parks, local government, churches, property owners, and civic organizations.

The heart of people who host a pantry is special. They recognize that hunger is real in Central Indiana and agree to help us in our mission to provide 24×7 no questions asked meals to hungry neighbors. In very practical terms, pantry hosts give their permission to locate a pantry on their property. While some hosts become involved with or adopt a pantry, many do not. Many of our busiest pantry locations are managed by volunteers but hosted at locations generously offered by people from the community.

Over the years we have been told “no” many times when we ask to locate a pantry at a particular location. We have heard, “we don’t want to attract that element”, “it’s not safe”, and even “we don’t have hungry people around here”. With each no, we’d politely show the data and attempt to tug on a heartstring or two. We’d show folks that we have a data driven approach to map areas where families could become food challenged. If it was still a no, we moved on to the next potential location.

We look at several data points for pantry locations. First, is the location near neighbors that fit the “GAP family” demographic? These are families whose income level exceeds the level for public assistance but whose income level isn’t such that a financial problem wouldn’t impact their ability to secure regular meals for their family. Second, is the location near where GAP families frequent? Third, is the location of moderate or high traffic volume? Fourth, how does this location fit with existing volunteer service routes, or do we need to recruit new volunteers to manage the pantry? Several other considerations round out the final decision to deploy a pantry at a location. These include visibility, shelter from the elements, density of other pantry locations, anchoring ability, ease of access and the amount of criminal activity in the immediate area. It’s not unusual for a pantry to be located a few blocks away from a challenging area rather than directly in that neighborhood.

Suggestions of locations and pantry requests now drive much of our new deployment processes. In addition to requests from the community, over the coming months it is our intention to deploy more pantries in Westfield, Sheridan, and the Northern portion of Hamilton County before returning to work more on additional locations in Fishers and Carmel in the spring of 2024. If you have a suggested location or if you would like to host or adopt a pantry, please reach out to us directly. With over 47,000 food challenged neighbors in Hamilton County, 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. facts – 57 pantries, over 10,000 meals in September 2023, over thirty volunteer families. Mark & Lisa Hall are the Founders of The Feeding Team. They may be reached at and 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.