Volunteers: “Backbone” of Indiana’s Anti-Hunger Community
By Mary Kuhlman
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – It’s National Volunteer Week, and Feeding Indiana’s Hungry is honoring those volunteers who serve the millions in the state who face food insecurity. From sorting food to packing donation boxes, thousands of people in Indiana devote their time each year to helping the state’s hungry.
Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, said volunteers are the backbone of the anti-hunger community, helping member food banks save time and labor costs.
“There’s any number of things that have to be done,” she said, “not just to run a nonprofit but also to make sure that the 80 million pounds of food that were distributed last year got out the door from the food banks to the pantries and soup kitchens and shelters.”
More than 70 percent of food pantries and 50 percent of soup kitchens served by their network report relying entirely on volunteers and have no paid staff, she said.
The Hoosier Hills Foodbank in Bloomington has eight full-time staff members and a handful of part-timers. Volunteer coordinator Katie Haddad said volunteers help them reach more people in the community, and also help to build awareness of the issue of food insecurity.
“A lot of people are facing hunger, and not just people that are below the poverty line – people that are middle-class,” she said. “So, it does affect a lot of people around us, and I think it’s important for people to understand that and to be a part of the solution.”
Weikert Bryant said help always is appreciated and Hoosiers can contact their regional food bank for volunteer opportunities in their communities and neighborhoods. She cited things people also can do on their own to help fight hunger.
“You can host a food drive at your school, at your office, in your neighborhood, or give when you see at the grocery store that they’re collecting food for a food drive,” she said. “If you’re a gardener, you can also plant an extra few rows of your garden and share that.”