Food Bank Announces $4m Capital Campaign for a New Facility

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The Food Bank of Northwest Indiana today announced it has raised $2.5 million, more than half of its $4 million capital campaign goal. The Food Bank announced the public phase of its campaign during an unveiling event at its new facility in Merrillville.

The Fighting Hunger, Building Hope capital campaign for a new facility is a critical effort for the Food Bank to increase its capacity to distribute more nutritious food to the community, as well as develop greater opportunities for community engagement and long-term solutions to hunger in the Region. About 60% of the funds have been raised toward the $4 million goal, and the Food Bank is turning to the community to raise the remaining 40% necessary to complete the campaign.

“At 72,000 square feet, this building is over five times the size of the Food Bank’s current warehouse,” said Steve Beekman, executive director of the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana. “But right now it’s mostly an empty shell. We need to build out office and community space, cold and dry storage for food, a volunteer room, and critical program space to ensure the Food Bank is able to more fully meet the needs of the people we serve.”

For more than 25 years, the Food Bank has operated out of a 12,000 square foot barn repurposed into a warehouse, and lacking critical elements like loading docks and enough freezer/cooler space for fresh produce and protein. In 2017, the Food Bank distributed 4.5 million meals out of this facility—meeting just over 25% of Northwest Indiana’s food assistance need of 17 million meals. Recently, they have had to turn away countless loads of fresh, healthy food because there wasn’t enough space to store it.

“Now more than ever, the Food Bank is focusing on fresh fruits, vegetables and protein,” said Beekman. “Once renovation of the facility is complete, the Food Bank can increase the amount of fresh foods distributed by as much as 500%. That means more individuals than ever before will have access to the nutrition they need.”

The facility at 6490 Broadway in Merrillville was an ideal location for the future Food Bank of Northwest Indiana. The building currently includes loading docks, an open-concept layout for dry food storage, and approximately four acres of undeveloped space adjacent to the building. A new freezer/cooler system and additional office and program space is critical for the Food Bank to begin operating out of the new facility.

Because of the facility’s centralized location, adequate square footage and ease of accessibility via major highways and through streets, the Food Bank can accept food that otherwise would have been turned away because of limited space.

“Hunger is one of the greatest issues plaguing our community,” said Bob Lowry, Chairman of the Fighting Hunger, Building Hope Campaign and Executive Vice President and CFO of Peoples Bank. “A new, larger Food Bank facility is the next step in fighting hunger and creating a stronger Region for everyone. Here, we can ensure our neighbors have access to the food and resources they need.”

Feeding America identifies nearly 100,000 individuals who are food insecure in Lake and Porter Counties, meaning they don’t have regular, reliable access to enough nutritious food. With one in six Northwest Indiana residents facing hunger, need for the Food Bank’s hunger relief services remains strong.

“Every night, right here in Northwest Indiana, thousands of children and adults go to bed in a state of true hunger. We simply cannot accept this,” said Jeff Strack, President and CEO of Highland-based Indiana Grocery Group honorary chairman of the Fighting Hunger, Building Hope campaign. “Not only will this facility have the space to distribute enough food for our hungry neighbors, but it will provide real, long-term solutions to hunger and poverty and create lasting impact in our community.”

In the new space, the Food Bank’s capacity can increase to as many as 18 million meals distributed each year. And with space to grow programs focusing on job training, workforce development and nutrition education, the Food Bank looks to make a significant impact in Northwest Indiana out of its future home.

“As a community, this is our opportunity to affect real change in the lives of many, and to deliver hope in meaningful and tangible ways to those who are in need,” said Strack.

Donors recognized at the announcement for their contribution to the Fighting Hunger, Building Hope campaign include: Dutch Farms, Gabriel Group, Indiana Beverage, Jewel-Osco, NIPSCO, Peoples Bank, Silva International, Strack & Van Til, Foundations of East Chicago, John and Ann Barney Family Foundation, John W. Anderson Foundation, Legacy Foundation, Nisource Charitable Fund, Joel Boomsma, Mary Boomsma, and Keith and Beverly Bruxvoort, Kevin and Joanne DeVries, Kristina Parker and Craig Shillinglaw, and Jeff and Shawn Strack.

“The response to this campaign and the vision for the future of the Food Bank has been tremendous,” said Beekman. We are beyond grateful to the donors, volunteers, and community members who have stepped up to support these efforts.  “The mission of the Food Bank has always relied on the generosity and support of the Northwest Indiana community. This campaign—and the future of the Food Bank—is no exception.”