A Milford man’s visit to a food bank in White County has mushroomed into a food distribution network involving semi-trucks, a warehouse and barn, more than a dozen volunteers, several tons of food and distribution to 25 food pantries in a half dozen or so counties.
The man, who asked his name not be used as he is one of several volunteers, visited Wolcott, Ind., in White County where he gets his own food. “I was there to help them make soap, which they send to Third World countries,” he said. “While I was there, I saw their food bank and I thought Milford could use this food.”
He mulled over the possibilities and a few weeks later made a few phone calls. “I called to see if I could pick up some food with my truck,” he noted.
When he returned to Wolcott, the director, to his astonishment, asked if he could send a semi load of soup, or 2,400 cases. “My mouth just dropped open and I wondered how I would get it off the truck,” he said. “So I said no, not today.”
After considering the possibilities, he found some trailers and also a semi-truck coming from the Wolcott area. He arranged to have the truck come to a warehouse dock of The Papers Inc. in Milford. Milford Food Bank was formed in March 2012.
He then started contacting other food pantries and quickly discovered the urgent need.
A driver working for The Papers is used to bring food from Wolcott. “The (semi) trailer is empty anyway when it comes back,” the volunteer said. The first semi load was about 5 tons, but has since grown to about 30 tons as more pantries discover the food supply exists.
Bill Doege, a warehouse worker for The Papers, also became involved by helping to figure out how to generate money to purchase cereal from E & S Sales in Shipshewana. They came up with the idea of recycling cans, steel barrels or anything else that can be sold. Now they are able to purchase cereal and macaroni.
Truck runs are made to Wolcott every three months. Food is stored in a warehouse at The Papers. It is then put on pallets and taken to a barn east of Milford where the various agencies can come monthly to get a share of food. It is hoped eventually food can be distributed twice monthly.
In addition to cereal and macaroni, other food distributed includes V-8 juice, crackers, tomato products, soup, lemonade and bread. Blankets are also distributed. The bread was obtained through a connection with a food pantry in Goshen.
What began as an idea to help just Milford has grown to a regional distribution network in northern Indiana. The network will continue to grow as connections are made with semis going to locations even outside of Indiana.
Grants, financial donations and more volunteers are sought because the need for food is not diminishing. “Nobody has told me they don’t need it; in fact, they ask me for more,” he said. Most of the food obtained is free, so transportation is the primary cost and there is no overhead.
He noted when he was younger, he was probably one of those in need. “This comes easy to me and we can’t give it away fast enough,” he commented.
Many still need basic food items. Food pantries can only help a limited number and generally a person can only visit once per month. “I would say at most pantries, there are likely between 500 to 1,000 people eligible to get food,” he said. “I know many people have simply given up looking for work.”
He’s seen plenty of evidence the economy is still struggling.
If interested in donating or volunteering, call (574) 518-1349.