Thrive by IU Health

July 28, 2021

Let’s “produce” hope; Hoosiers have greater access to fresh food

Let’s “produce” hope; Hoosiers have greater access to fresh food

If you’d gather about 9,000 IU Health LifeLine helicopters or stack 14 Lucas Oil Stadiums, you’d have the equivalent weight of fresh fruits, vegetables and other food items Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana distributed to Hoosiers in need last year.

That’s 35.3 million pounds of food provided to residents in 21 counties across central and southeastern Indiana, part of which was made possible by support from IU Health. IU Health Community Outreach and Engagement invests in organizations like Gleaners that focus on significant health needs in the communities served by IU Health hospitals.

"Hunger is a linchpin for many social determinants of health,” says Peter Erotas, Gleaners Food Bank corporate and communications officer. “It’s not just one single thing that causes hunger -- it’s poverty, lack of educational achievement, crime-ridden residential areas and more.”

Gleaners works with partners like IU Health to tackle these critical intersections of hunger and inequality.

Non-perishable food items Gleaners distributes

In 2020, IU Health supported Gleaners by granting $200,000 to two community initiatives for immediate hunger relief.

The first grant helped families in Marion County, where Gleaners saw a disproportionate amount of food insecurity. This funding enabled Gleaners to provide about 500,000 meals to families experiencing hunger.

The second grant is still active and being used towards Foods to Encourage, an initiative distributing more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy to address food insecurity in terms of where food and health intersect.

In rural counties, Gleaners’ hunger relief partner, senior hunger initiative and mobile pantries enable Indiana’s critical access communities to receive these healthy food items as well.

Gleaners' mobile distributions

“IU Health’s purpose is to not only improve the health of patients, but communities too,” says Marcie Memmer, IU Health Community and Engagement program manager. “It’s vital for IU Health to develop purposeful relationships and invest in community-based organizations because they are a trusted community resource, and often better equipped to understand and respond to community health needs.”

Gleaners Food Bank is one of those trusted organizations that helps individuals, families and communities.

One community member says: "I started coming [to Gleaners] after my breast cancer treatment left me with no money to buy healthy food. I was a few hundred dollars over income to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and it didn't matter that the extra money they thought I had was spent on medication, car insurance, home maintenance and gas money. Your fresh foods made a difference in my health and care. Thank you."

The connection between IU Health and Gleaners is more than just donor and recipient charity. “Our healthcare partners are essential to our work,” says Erotas, “and are probably some of the most important partners we can have.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help IU Health further support community initiatives, please contact IU Health Community Outreach and Engagement at communitybenefit@iuhealth.org. 

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