Gleaners rolls out new program sending produce to other food pantries

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - One in six Hoosiers is going hungry every day and one food bank is taking a fresh approach to filling empty bellies this holiday season. They're reaching out to families by handing out produce.

When you're in the business of giving away food, it's not easy to keep the storeroom stocked. That's one reason St. Vincent DePaul's Food Pantry counts on donations: so they can keep helping those in need. Another shipment arrived this week and it was a special one from Gleaners.

“We certainly appreciate all donations like this,” said Jim Benta, who is the executive director for the St. Vincent DePaul’s Food Pantry Bank.

The food there may not be what you'd expect. Just this month, Gleaners rolled out a new program to pass out produce to other pantries.

“We got the potatoes and onions,” said Wendy Cook, who stopped by to get food for her family. “We got almost all the produce. We love it.”

“For a big family, we go through a lot of produce, which is expensive at the grocery store,” said Angela Crook, who has three kids to feed. “It saves our family a tremendous amount of money.”

Gleaners President and CEO John Elliott says they noticed fruits and vegetables were in high demand, so they started testing out the program in the spring. Even as they try to reach people in a fresh way, they still see barriers.

“Hundreds of pantries that we work with may not have refrigeration,” said Elliott. “They may not have the room to take the produce, so even though we have it to give, they don't have the capacity to distribute.”

Even with those challenges, they're looking forward to new ways to help and families we talked with are more than grateful.

“Having the fresh produce, we can have more salads, we can make healthier soups and have our meals last us longer as well,” said Crook.

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