Local non-profit food distributor Midwest Food Bank hit record donations last year, but is still facing a high demand in McLean County.
Donations of food were 29 percent higher than the previous year, with a calculated 11 million pounds of food provided by donation in 2013. Even with the donations coming in at a higher rate this year, the organization is still struggling to keep up with the demand.
“We continue to grow each year and our need grows every year,” Midwest Food Bank Operations manager Mike Hoffman said.
The non-profit is facing a higher demand from food pantries in need due to the government assistance decline and the federal cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the Farm Bill.
“The government is cutting back and food pantries are relying on us because they aren’t getting enough funding,” Hoffman said.
Midwest Food Bank (MFB) relies on private donations only with no government help. The donations are boxed up and driven to various organizations and food pantries.
Hoffman said when the government cuts back on funding to these organizations, the demand for food increases and despite the record breaking donations, there is still a need. Despite the shortage, volunteers continue to package and distribute the food.
“Our object is to continue to distribute to food pantries for no cost,” Hoffman said.
The organization relies only on four paid employees. Hoffman said a great deal of work is done by much appreciated volunteers. Over 30,000 hours of work were recorded by volunteers in the last year, equivalent to the work hours of 15 full-time employees.
“We can always use more volunteers, we are always working,” Hoffman said.
While most of the food stays local, MFB extended their efforts this year when it partnered with Salvation Army to reach out to the Central Illinois tornado relief and to the Philippines after the typhoon that devastated the island.
Midwest Food Bank receives donations from food manufacturers, distributors, grocers, community and organizational food drives and from individual donors and donations of time from hundreds of volunteers.
Bloomington’s branch began in 2003 when a family began to distribute food out of their barn and served 10 local food pantries in McLean County. The non-profit opened a location on Veteran’s Parkway in 2005 and now serves over 235 organizations in 39 counties in Illinois. Over 130,000 people receive $1.3 million worth of food from MFB each month.
Other branches of Midwest Food Bank are located in Morton and Peoria, and Indiana and Georgia. Together they serve over 725 non-profit organizations.