Midwest Food Bank needs help to keep people fed during the pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the coronavirus maintains its foothold on the world, food banks are in high demand, but so is their need for donations.

Midwest Food Bank has seen a 30% increase in need compared to this time last year, but they have received half of the canned and dry goods donations they normally get. It’s forced them to have to buy food more than normal.

“Typically, we only purchase about $100,000 worth of food annually,” explains Midwest Food Bank Executive Director John Whitaker, “So far this year, we have already spent well over $750,000, and to bear in mind, our budget is $860,000. That means the funding that’s come from the community is what is keeping food banks like ours alive right now.”

Whitaker says the virus has created a shift in the food system that has left less of a surplus in their areas of need. The food bank still plans to serve the same number of people as last year, but they need help. At the same time, restaurant closures have created new opportunities for donations, but they come with their own issues.

“We really got three times as much perishable items because of the restaurant closures,” adds Whitaker, “We had like four semis worth of different types of lettuce.”

These items must be refrigerated and put a tax on Midwest Food Bank’s storage space. It also meant they had to clear the food before it spoiled. Whitaker and his team responded by opening pop-up distribution centers in places of need.

“What we need the most of are our staple food items. What you would use the most in your own home, so canned vegetables or peanut butter,” describes Whitaker.

Midwest Food Bank welcomes any donations but urges people to refrain from going to the grocery store to buy goods to donate as that can further disrupt the food system. If you don’t have a can at home to donate, but want to help, money donations go a long way in keeping Indiana fed.

“We can take that $1 and turn it into $40 worth of food for a needy individual because of our efficiency,” says Whitaker, while also talking about their current climate, “Right now it’s getting close to a dollar for dollar. The need is much greater, and we hate to say, “No.”

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