The second annual Feast to Feed is happening in downtown Elkhart on Saturday, Aug. 19. Your $100 ticket reserves your seat at a single table set for 200 people, benefitting the Salvation Army and St. John’s Episcopal Church food pantry. Buy your tickets now!
By: Feast to Feed
Even though the Salvation Army of Elkhart is located on Main Street, it’s not always easy for seniors to get there to get food at the food pantry.
“We’d see them with their walkers, it was a struggle to walk in. Or they’d have to rely on someone else to have the time to bring them in,” said Julie Poertner, director of social services at Salvation Army of Elkhart. “We thought, these people need to be serviced but it’s not right that we’re making them come here.”
That’s why the Salvation Army launched its Mobile Manna food delivery service in May 2016.
Once a month, a Salvation Army volunteer will go shopping at an area grocery store and stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and pantry staple items. The shopping list changes depending on what’s in season, what’s on sale and what Mobile Manna clients like to eat. Another volunteer packs the groceries into individual packages for each client. Another volunteer delivers the groceries to Mobile Manna’s 12 clients, all of whom are 60 or older.
“We go and shop for them so they have fresh fruit, fresh meat and vegetables. It’s usually about a grocery bag and a half of fresh food that’s meant to get them through about a week,” Poertner said. Many of the items can be used in several meals or eaten cooked or raw.
Mobile Manna clients typically don’t get meal delivery services elsewhere from programs like Meals on Wheels, but some are on a fixed income and some receive SNAP benefits. Though the Mobile Manna deliveries aren’t always delivered on the same day, the delivery usually happens in the third or fourth week of the month, when funds are starting to run low.
The service is more than just dropping off a bag of food. Mobile Manna is social too. The volunteers who deliver the food develop relationships with the clients and spend time talking to them as well.
“It starts with the food and gets into the relationship. (The clients) really look forward to it,” Poertner said.
Most clients are homebound seniors with limited transportation who would be coming to the Salvation Army’s food pantry, but even that trip would likely be difficult.
Having the food delivered takes the stress out of getting much-needed food. Clients often call Poertner and tell her when they especially liked a particular item or if they want to make sure they don’t get a certain item again.
“One of the first times we delivered, we took hamburger patties. A woman called me and she said, ‘I was so excited that as soon as (the volunteer) left, I made up a hamburger,'” Poertner said.
“It’s nice to know that we’re specifically doing this, because it isn’t something that they’re going to go anywhere else and get,” she said. “They don’t even have to go anywhere and they’re happy enough about the items that they call in. They’re happy that we’re coming and that makes me feel good. And it makes the people who are delivering feel good.”
The Salvation Army spends about $330 per month on the Mobile Manna program.
The Salvation Army also serves a free community breakfast every morning Monday through Friday that anyone can attend as much as they want. Families can visit the army’s emergency food pantry once every 90 days and must provide income information. Seniors can visit the food pantry once every 30 days. The Salvation Army provided food to 745 households from Oct. 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.
All of the funding for the Salvation Army’s food programs comes from Red Kettle donations and fundraisers like the annual Feast to Feed dinner.
The Feast to Feed fundraiser begins at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, in downtown Elkhart’s Central Park. Artisan owner Kurt Janowsky will make a farm-to-table meal for 200 people seated at a single table. Proceeds will go to the Salvation Army of Elkhart as well as the food pantry at St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Elkhart.
The St. John’s food pantry serves fresh produce, meat, pantry items and toiletries to about 500 families every month. The pantry gets very few grants, so it relies on donations and fundraisers to stay stocked.
Feast to Feed raised more than $15,000 at the inaugural 2016 event, split between the two pantries. Event planners are hoping to raise even more at the 2017 event.