Setting an abundant table
In 2017, 13.5 percent of people in Indiana lived at or below the poverty line. Many families earning above that level still struggle with food insecurity. Across Indiana, Purdue Extension Nutrition Education Program (SNAP-Ed) staff and programs work to address this need, supplying produce to food pantries, reducing food waste and providing an oasis in Indiana’s food deserts.
To help increase access to healthy food at food pantries, farmer’s markets in Hendricks, Huntington, LaGrange, Marshall and Vanderburgh counties collect change from customer purchases. The change was used to buy 1,908 pounds of produce, donated to six food pantries in those five counties.
An estimated 22 million food items are discarded annually from Indiana schools. Food waste rescue programs,
such as K-12 Food Rescue, offer solutions to reduce the number of unopened food items discarded, instead donating them to local food pantries or caring agencies that serve limited-resource clientele. Since 2017, more than 41,000 unused/unopened food items have been donated from more than 31 school cafeterias. Rescued food items included milk, juice, applesauce, cheese and unpeeled fruit.
Community gardens are a popular way to provide fresh food in places where it is difficult to find or unaffordable. Master Gardeners work with Nutrition Education Program staff who provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education to address food insecurity, increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the community gardening program Growing Together. Working with Extension Community Wellness Coordinators, they facilitate production and distribution of locally grown foods to food pantries and other agencies. In 2018, 12 counties participated in Growing Together and provided over 9,980 pounds of produce to 38 food pantries with potential reach to 13,133 limited-resource individuals. To make this possible, 268 volunteers from 77 partner organizations provided over 4,200 volunteer service hours. $63,000 of in-kind donations of labor and resources supported these projects. In addition to Growing Together gardens, many other community gardens thrived throughout Indiana. At Branchville Correctional Facility in Perry County, for example, inmates and staff produced and donated approximately 10,000 pounds of produce to the local community.
- Protein-rich eggs are a frequently requested item at food banks, but are usually in short supply. Community Wellness Coordinators in Boone, Putnam and Hendricks counties have partnered with HATCH for Hunger and local grocers to provide eggs to local food pantries. From these efforts, an average of 1,650 dozens of eggs are being donated to 22 local food pantries each month.