Bishop Rhoades visits Community Harvest Food Bank
By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — “Jesus said, ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat,’” described Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades during a television interview after touring Fort Wayne’s Community Harvest Food Bank on Dec. 6.
Community Harvest Food Bank Executive Director Jane Avery guided Bishop Rhoades through the facility, which offers hunger relief efforts in northeast Indiana. It quickly became apparent that the need is great and many are hungry in northeast Indiana. It’s half-full warehouse shows how quickly food is distributed from the food bank on Fort Wayne’s south side.
Food from the Community Harvest Food Bank is distributed by nearly 500 churches and human service agencies in its member agency network, serving 21,200 unduplicated clients per week throughout its nine northeast Indiana county service area. The Community Cupboard offers a grocery-type outlet for referrals to the food bank.
Agencies assisted by the food bank include food pantries — such as The Franciscan Center — soup kitchens — such as St. Mary’s — homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers, and youth and senior citizen programs. The food bank provides 1,200 shut-in seniors with food every other week and relies on volunteers for distribution to homes and to stock the shelves at the warehouse. While Bishop Rhoades toured the facility, a Girl Scout troop from St. John the Baptist School in Fort Wayne came to the food bank to help stock shelves.
“This is part of our mission as a Church,” Bishop Rhoades said. “The mission of charity is essential to following Christ.”
Bishop Rhoades said he sees his role as that of promotion of the good work and to heighten awareness of the food bank with the Catholic community, as well as prayers.
Community Harvest Food Bank is the largest hunger relief organization in northeast Indiana, annually distributing nearly 10 million pounds of food. Community Harvest collects wholesome surplus food and grocery products donated by the food industry — products that might otherwise go to a landfill — and other donors, and utilizes it for hunger relief.
Avery added that farmers and gardeners are encouraged to donate sweet corn, tomatoes, green beans and other fresh produce during the harvest season. This can be frozen and distributed throughout the year to those in need.
The best way Catholic parishes can assist the food bank to feed the hungry, Avery said, is “believe it, don’t judge it, and see what you can do that makes sense.”
Avery noted the phrase, “The sooner you believe it, the sooner we can end it — meaning hunger. And that’s to open your eyes. Hunger is invisible. You cannot look at someone who is skinny and say, ‘Oh, they must be hungry, but this obese person isn’t.’ We all know that’s incorrect thinking, because usually it’s the person with the weight problem that’s eating all the wrong foods, but (the food is) cheap.”
The second thing, Avery said, is “to judge not. … All I know is if someone is in here and they need food help, it’s hard to ask for that.”
In some communities such as Garrett, Avery said churches of multiple denominations are combining resources to feed the hungry.
“I know the ministry portion of feeding the hungry is huge,” Avery said, “but let’s take it a step further,” she recommended, “especially when we’re in the type of economy and situation we are in now.”
At the holiday season, many folks are charitable and offer donations, but hunger continues beyond the holidays, especially during these difficult economic times in northeast Indiana: “Just because you donated a turkey at Thanksgiving, two days after and that turkey’s gone, those people are hungry,” Avery noted.
Community Harvest Food Bank is a member of Feeding America and Feeding Indiana’s Hungry (FIsH).
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