Bloomington, Indiana – In 2020, the Hoosier Hills Food Bank massively expanded its food distribution by 39 percent, delivering 7,089,749 pounds of food in total.

This is a record amount of the organization’s food given away. Volunteer services and community engagement manager Ryan Jochim said he wants to meet the need again in the future.

In Brown, Lawrence, Orange, Owen, Martin and Monroe counties, the Hoosier Hills Food Bank offers food to non-profit organizations, pantries and shelters. It has a mobile food bank as well.

The organization has lost hundreds of volunteers and experienced a decline in local donations because of the pandemic, Julio Alonso, executive director and CEO of the food bank, said.

“In order to move to no-contact or low-contact distributions, we had to change all of our protocols immediately,” Alonso said.

It was appropriate to cancel Hoosier Hills’ Letters Carrier Food Drive and the Orientation Food Drive in the summer.

Alonso said Hoosier Hills bought 3 times more food in 2020 compared to 2019 to make up for the lack of donations.

The food bank has received more than a million pounds of boxes of food through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, Brandon Bartley, manager of food procurement and food policy, said.

The pandemic exacerbated equity problems within the service area of the food bank, Bartley said. Bartley also said that some communities of color who need the food most don’t have ways to access it.

Bartley said, “A lot of this food is sitting in our warehouse, and we would love to move it and really want to work hard to find the right communities to move this food to.”

Alonso also said that consumers and outside organizations will no longer shop and pick their own things at the food bank.

Alonso said new services have been introduced by the food bank, such as on-site food delivery.

“We had served over 10,400 households by the time it was over,” Alonso said.

The food bank had to cut the volunteer services it usually runs, Jochim said. Every evening, one of the cut programs had about 15 to 20 volunteers.

 

Jochim said volunteers could have assisted the food bank in processing, cooking food, cleaning and office work before the pandemic.

In late March, Alonso said the National Guard started to assist the pantry to supplement the lack of volunteers.

“Throughout the summer and the end of the fall, we were able to get quite a bit of food out the door because of their assistance,” Jochim said.

This year, the Hoosier Hills Food Bank will host its 27th Annual Soup Bowl Benefit virtually.

At the Monroe County Convention Center, where the Soup Bowl Benefit is usually held, visitors can sample soups from local restaurants, listen to music, and walk away with a bowl created by a local potter.

Volunteers, food donations of non-perishable goods and financial help are the three items the food bank really wants and really needs, Alonso said.