Healthcare Foundation funds “The little truck that could” to help feed county’s hungry

Healthcare Foundation funds “The little truck that could” to help feed county’s hungry

Recently WNLP featured a story about city projects funded by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, including the Soldiers Memorial Park kayak launch and the Clear Lake Trailhead. The foundation awards grants to organizations that improve the health and wellness of local residents. Some projects, like the city’s, are highly visible. Other projects are low-key, behind the scenes — but have just as much impact.

One such HFL project started out as a pilot program for food rescue, renting a truck early in 2019 in partnership with Duneland Health Council, explained Maria Fruth, HFL president and CEO.

“I call this the story of ‘the little truck that could,’” she said.

HFL President and CEO Maria Fruth

After the successful trial, Fruth said HFL funded a refrigerator truck for Citizens Concerned for the Homeless, again in partnership with Duneland. “It really came to pay big dividends during this pandemic. When the pandemic hit, Jim (Musial, executive director for CCH) had already accepted HFL’s challenge to expand his distribution to the entire county. HFL granted him funds for expenses related to the truck and driver. “Jim has been doing a phenomenal job!” Fruth said.

HFL’s grant-making for the hungry didn’t stop there. A grant to Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry brought pork meat. Food pantries responded quickly to the distribution of protein, Fruth said, and were delighted to have their freezers full.

She noted that HFL board member Jane Nelson even donated a home-size freezer to a small pantry that did not have a way to store the meat.

“This is an amazing example of collaboration,” Fruth said. “The community is the beneficiary of such partnerships. Our food pantries throughout the county received over 9,784 pounds of ground meat — which translates into over 39,000 meals!”

So what is Citizens Concerned for the Homeless? The organization says its mission “is to provide emergency shelter, related rehabilitation, healthy initiatives and growth services, and to provide opportunities to build a skill set to maintain self-sufficiency for homeless and disenfranchised individuals within La Porte County.”

The HFL awarded a $25,000 grant for the CCH Food Rescue Initiative Program for Nov. 1, 2019 to Oct. 31, 2020. The project details were as follows: “CCH launched the Food Rescue Initiative in January 2019 as a pilot program with funding from HFL and Duneland Health Council HFL and Duneland provided matching grants of $5,000 each for a total of $10,000. After a successful pilot program, launched phase II in January 2020 with matching grants from HFL and Duneland Health Council. Grant funds were used to purchase and operate a used refrigeration truck. Prior to purchasing the truck, CCH rented a 15-foot box truck twice a week to collect and deliver rescued food.

“Truck rental not only involved financial costs, but also logistical costs associated with reserving, picking up, and returning the rented truck. Having its own truck has allowed CCH to expand operations. CCH also makes the truck available to meet community partners’ needs. Truck is always operated and staffed by CCH employees.”

Project results:

  • 78,000 total pounds of food rescued and delivered during the grant term (Nov. 1, 2019 – Oct. 31, 2020).
  • Purchase of truck allowed CCH to expand the network from 12 recipient organizations in Michigan City and La Porte to six cities in La Porte County.
  • Food Rescue Initiative truck and crew facilitated mobile food pantries from Food Bank of Northern Indiana with more than 247,000 pounds of food to thousands of participants.

HFL has recently awarded CCH a $25,000 grant for its Food Rescue Initiative as part of the HFL 2020 grant cycle 2, for Nov. 1, 2020 – Oct. 31, 2021. This is the third grant from HFL and, all told, HFL has provided $55,000 in funding for the CCH Food Rescue Initiative.

Also partnering with HFL in efforts to provide food is Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry. Debra Treesh is the executive director and Amber Zecca is the fund development director. Founded in 2011, the organization encourages hunters and farmers to donate large game and livestock to its “Meat” the Need program through a participating meat processor (85 statewide), raises financial support to pay processing fees on these donations, and gives this nutritious meat/protein to hunger relief agencies.

The organization received a $10,000 COVID-19 Emergency Grant in May 2020, which paid for the processing and transportation of about 98,600 pounds of donated pork within La Porte County.