By David Hazledine
MILFORD – Food insecurity was a problem in Indiana well before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, roughly one million Hoosiers had limited or uncertain access to adequate food, above the national average.
COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation: however, food banks and their donors in Kosciusko County have risen to the challenge, going above and beyond their usual distributions with weekly food giveaways in rural and urban locations.
In early March, Bill Doege, distribution supervisor for Milford Food Bank, noticed the strain beginning to show in the food supply and called for more financial support. “You have to have the money in the account when food becomes available,” he said. More wholesome food such as fruits and vegetables is particularly difficult to come by. A pallet of corn, for example, costs Milford Food Bank around $1,300. “We got a really good response about donations,” Doege observed.
Food giveaways were underway in Ligonier by mid-March. Then Doege began receiving phone calls about needs in the Milford area as well. “Needs are different than a month-and-a-half ago,” said Regg Beer, a Milford Food Bank volunteer. “We decided to come up alongside the pantries and help them out.”
Since April 15, Milford Food Bank, 111 S. James St., has held food giveaways every Wednesday at 2 p.m., serving roughly 450 families.
On April 29, Wawasee Community School Corporation teachers joined Milford Food Bank for “Wave back Wednesday,” encouraging families to give a “Warrior wave” to their teachers when picking up donations. “We know there’s a need for food and people might be more apt to get it,” commented organizer Kim McCreary, a Project Lead the Way teacher who was inspired by a similar event organized by West Noble High School teachers. “We’re looking forward to helping again,” she added.
Emily Worrell, a Milford kindergarten teacher, was happy to see her students again. “It’s been awesome,” she said; however, she admitted, “It’s a little more sad than I expected it to be. We miss them.”
Unlike Milford Food Bank, which depends entirely on local donations and funding, Food Bank of Northern Indiana is government-supported and receives some of its foodstuffs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the Federal Food Assistance Programs. Members of Indiana National Guard, which has been deployed through the end of May, also assist in the packing and distribution of boxes. In Kosciusko County, the food bank partners with Warsaw Salvation Army.
According to Salvation Army Director Ken Locke, the need for “bonus food box distributions” was communicated around March 15. “We decided to move them around the county … we want it in rural areas as well.”
Regardless of the location, these weekly distributions take place from 10 a.m. to noon. On April 29, 130 cars lined up in the rain outside Pierceton Elementary School. Locke has seen a steady demand since the distributions started. “It hasn’t increased or decreased,” he said.
“In times of crisis, Americans can come together and help one another,” Locke stated. “We’re not as focused on our differences.”
To donate, send a check to Milford Food Bank, 3686 North CR 1025 West, Cromwell, IN, 46732, or visit the Facebook page for more information. For more information on Warsaw Salvation Army, visit centralusa.salvationarmy.org/warsaw/, or go to feedindiana.org.