ELKHART — The Elkhart County 4-H Fair and Church Community Services have teamed up to raise 250,000 pounds of food for Elkhart County food pantries this year.
Fair Food Concessions Director Tim Yoder said fair organizers were inspired to organize the food drive while attending the International Associations of Fairs and Expos Convention in Las Vegas.
The 2013 chairwoman of the IAFE board of directors, Marlene Pierson-Joliffe, introduced the idea of fair food drives and encouraged fair organizers to collect food for their local charities.
On the national level, the organization hopes to collect 20 million pounds of food, Yoder said.
Fairs throughout Indiana are collecting donations for the statewide “Fairs Care” campaign.
“Our goal (in Elkhart County) is 250,000 pounds,” Yoder said. “We should be able to raise one pound for each of the 250,000 people who come through the gates.”
Donations will be accepted at all three main pedestrian gates.
Rod Roberson, executive director of Church Community Services, said the program will count “donations or dollars” in calculating that goal, with each $1 donation equal to one pound of food.
The Elkhart County Food Bank at CCS distributes food to pantries throughout Elkhart County.
Roberson said CCS is hoping for more monetary donations as the food bank can stretch the money to purchase far more food.
“We can stretch a dollar times 10 based on our buying power as well as our ability to offset with other donations,” Roberson said.
Donations on behalf of the “Fairs Care” program will also be accepted at CCS, 907 Oakland Ave. in Elkhart, and online at churchcommunityservices.org/get-involved/donate/. Donors can specify that the donations are part of the “Fairs Care” campaign and the donations will be counted toward the campaign’s goal of $250,000 pounds or dollars.
Roberson said the food bank at Church Community Services provides about 70 pounds of food per month to a family of four. With 250,000 pounds of food, they could feed more than 3,500 families for a month.
August and September are tough for food pantries because donations tend to trickle off in those months, Roberson said.
“If we reach that (250,000-pound) goal, this will be the largest food drive in Elkhart County for the year,” he said. “This couldn’t be a better time to replenish these shelves.”
Even though money is preferable to food items, Roberson said CCS will “take every donated food item we can.”
“The running joke in the food pantry is that you can never have enough peanut butter,” he said.
Roberson said peanut butter can also be one of the more expensive foods for the pantry to purchase.
Breakfast cereals are also more expensive and are popular at the food pantry.
In addition to the food drive, an auction hosted by Ag Day will donate all of its proceeds to Seed to Feed, a program run by Church Community Services.
The auction will take place at 4:30 p.m. Friday, July 19, at the Heritage Park Stage. Items will include a hog roast, limestones and a John Deere toy riding tractor.
The fair is offering additional incentives to donate.
Entry forms will be available at the donation sites for a raffle to win tickets to the Indiana State Fair, to be held Aug. 2 to 18 in Indianapolis.
Yoder said 15 pairs of tickets will be raffled off each day of the fair.
On Friday, July 26, each donation will be rewarded with a voucher good for one free ride on the midway. There is a limit of one voucher per person.