The alliance allows agencies to pool resources and buy food and supplies in bulk as well as avoid duplicating services.
ELKHART — Nearly a quarter of the smaller food pantries and food kitchens in Elkhart County are now working together to try to address hunger needs for all ages in Elkhart County.
“Our kitchens in the United Team are serving literally 2,000 hot meals a month. Our pantries are serving a minimum of 1,000 families a month,” said Jim Piechorowski of the Pantries and Kitchens of Elkhart County United Team.
The group of seven food pantries and two soup kitchens joined together to work with The Food Bank of Northern Indiana because, individually, to donors and larger agencies, “We’re not on the radar screen. But now all of a sudden we become a B-17 and we’re on the radar screen.”
Now, instead of nine individual charities asking for donations of money and food and trying to buy supplies to serve people, they’re one organization.
The United Team allows agencies to go in together to buy food and supplies in bulk. Individual agencies “can’t afford half a truckload. As nine pantries and two kitchens, we can,” Piechorowski said.
Santa’s Pantry, around since 2008, will be focusing their efforts on the United Team, the group announced. They’re starting a “Pay It Forward Cupboard” where all Elkhart County nonprofit organizations can swap items.
The United Team will also work together to share donations and educate donors on what they need. “A can of olives doesn’t really do anything with a box of spaghetti or a can of spinach. We’re going to take anything we can get,” said Piechorowski, “but if we can point people in the right direction to begin with and get them used to a giving process and what is needed for a balanced diet,” that will better serve the families who need help.
The goal, he said, “is providing families in need not just with a bag of food that might contain miscellaneous items that have no relationship to each other, but beginning to provide a rounded food supplement to a family.”
Santa’s Pantry estimated there are more than 40 pantries and soup kitchens in the county.
While the larger ones are joined together through United Way, many of the smaller ones just aren’t big enough to participate in that effort, Piechorowski said. “The United Way has their food network which does an excellent job. We’re copying what they’ve been doing over the past five years, on a smaller scale.”
He explained, “To a great extent the donor public doesn’t realize the impact the smaller pantries have on the community,” he said. “We’re at least 40 percent of it, and without that 40 percent, a lot of people go hungry.” Their effort will avoid duplicating services, he said.
In the end, if they’re successful as a joint fundraising entity, “the end result will be a larger supply of food available in the community. That’s our whole objective. We’re not against anybody or anything, we’re against hunger,” Piechorowski said.