Local food banks add thousands of square feet of more space to keep up with high demand

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INDIANAPOLIS – Two major central Indiana food banks are under-going an urgent expansion. The pandemic and the continued need to help those who are food insecure has forced the organizations to create space to help more Hoosiers.

“Here at our pantry we’re seeing as much as four times as many households as we saw this time last year,” explained Sarah Estell, the Senior Director of Strategic Communications for Gleaners Food Bank.

At Gleaners over the months, they’ve had to add refrigerated trailers in the parking lot to keep up with the high demand.

“Our 15,000 square foot refrigerated storage, which seems huge is just not sufficient,” Estell added.

But soon, the back-warehouse area of the food bank will be transformed into a 40,000 square foot cooled space..  It’ll cost $3.2 million, with some of the money coming from the federal CARES act, for pandemic assistance. This allow gleaners to focus on getting more lean meats, dairy and nutritious options to families.

“In 2019, Gleaners as an organization distributed just over 42 million pounds of food. In 2020, we’ve distributed 38 million pounds just in fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Estell, “We continue to see new people coming through, so I think there are a lot of people who may have had a little bit of cushion and as this continues, and the economic aspects of the pandemic continue – more and more people have exhausted those reserves.”

Midwest Food Bank is also having to make more room to help thousands of Hoosiers. The owners of the industrial park across from the existing food bank facility offered up some space at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, Midwest has taken over that location to prepare for the holidays.

“It allows us to more than double our capacity to distribute food here in Indiana,” said John Whitaker, the Executive Director of Midwest Food Bank.

The extra 20,000 square feet allows room for roughly 800 pallets of product.

“About as soon as it comes in, it moves out again,” explained Whitaker, “We’re just building up for some major distribution. It typically wouldn’t be as full as it is now, but we’re really pumping hard to get the food out to the people, especially during the holidays.”

Now that there’s more space both groups need volunteers to step up.

“I think this is going to be a prolonged response to COVID, I think we’ll carry this through all of next year and possibly into 2022,” said Whitaker.

Gleaners food bank hopes to have their new refrigerated expansion complete by the spring.

There are major distributions set for Midwest Food Bank for the holidays. We’ll keep you posted on their efforts.

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