INDIANAPOLIS — Volunteering at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana for about 3 years, Jacqueline Owens already knows her duties of packing produce.
“That’s what I do every week when I come here is produce,” she said.
On Tuesday, she was among the 40 to 50 volunteers helping with drive-thru distribution. As cars rolled in, so did reality of the growing amount of neighbors in need.
“I think we’ll serve over 700 households today,” said President and CEO Fred Glass.
Tuesday marked the start of the food bank’s return to drive-thru distribution, a switch made in response to the growing amount of Hoosiers needing help.
Since the year started, Glass said the amount of families served has increased by 50%, nearing the height of what they saw during the pandemic.
“With food costs, fuel costs, it can put you over the edge. So we’re seeing a lot of families, who are like ‘I never thought I’d find myself in line,'” said Glass. “These are hardworking people, that can’t quite make it, so we’re trying to fill that breach.”
Glass said the switch to drive-thru is also meant to address the limited capacity of its in-person shopping pantry.
“The numbers were so high. The pantry was meant for 400 people a day, it was serving 700 a day. It was not sustainable,” he said. “We actually innovated this to allow our neighbors to come through the drive-thru so we can serve more people, more safely, especially as the weather turns cold.”
Distribution happens four days a week, including Tuesdays/Wednesdays (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.), Thursdays (2 p.m. – 7 p.m.) and Saturdays (9 a.m. to noon). Cars will line outside the Gleaners warehouse at 3737 Waldemere Avenue.
Glass said families receive boxes containing produce, dairy and a variety of other items that can help assist with meal prep at home.
“We try to provide dry goods that are easily convertible into meals. We give people recipes, like here’s how you can make this recipe with the stuff we just gave you, and that’s very well received by our neighbors,” said Glass.
In the coming weeks, Glass said Gleaners will also be looking at innovative ways to incorporate wrap-around and choice services into the drive-thru experience.
Meanwhile, volunteers, like Owens, will prepare to load up more cars at volumes they haven’t seen in a while. Along with the food, she hopes neighbors know how much they are loved.
“I hope that they takeaway that it’s a lot of people that care,” Owens said.