Our early work focused on understanding the system that feeds hungry people in Indianapolis and identifying improvement opportunities. That work continues today as we look for new opportunities to improve the food assistance system.
Apartment Complex Food Access
IHN is experimenting with different avenues for supporting families with resources and information so that their food needs are fully met. We previously conducted a pilot project at an elementary school to connect with families in need of food assistance and direct them to available resources in their area. We are in the early stages of a pilot project to reach food-insecure families through on-site social workers at apartment complexes.
Cooking and Nutrition Education
Cooking and nutrition education classes are taught at sites throughout Marion County, including community centers, food pantries, churches and schools, using the Cooking Matters curriculum. Class participants learn to prepare and eat more healthy foods and do so less expensively. Indy Hunger Network offered 20 classes in 2017 and is working with partners to teach 45 classes this year and to expand the program to more locations.
Food Compass App
Connect2Help211 has extensive information in their database about food resources, and we would like to make this information more easily available by smart phone. We are working with the City of Indianapolis, LevelUp Design and Connect2Help211 to develop an app that will allow people to quickly find the nearest food pantry, congregate meal site or other food resource on their phones, as well as determining eligibility for federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, WIC, school meals and summer meals.
Semi trucks carrying loads of food often have to offload the food quickly if it is rejected by the purchaser, a truck breaks down or a load is overweight. Instead of letting those loads end up in the dump, we have created FoodDropIN.org to direct truck drivers to local sites where they can donate the food. We have recently expanding beyond the Greater Indianapolis area to include food banks across the state.
There are nearly 200 food pantries in Indianapolis, operating with very limited coordination and support. IHN convened the first Pantry Summit in March 2018 and is continuing efforts to help pantries strengthen their operations. The second Pantry Summit will be held March 2019.
SNAP Challenges | Navigators
Many people in need are not accessing food resources or federal benefit programs for which they qualify, because the system is complicated and difficult to navigate, especially for people in challenging circumstances. A recent IHN study indicated that many people do not understand the eligibility requirements for SNAP. IHN is exploring ideas for facilitating SNAP enrollment, such as creating a system of navigators to help people access the food resources they need and improving access to eligibility information.
WeCare Infant Mortality
The WeCare program, led by the Regenstrief Institute, aims to reduce infant mortality through education and assistance to pregnant women and new parents. IHN is partnering with Regenstrief at federally qualified health centers to provide “barrier busters” such as gas cards, bus passes, car seats, emergency food packs and grocery gift cards to help this target population reduce food insecurity and improve outcomes for infants.
The Indiana WIC Program currently serves an average of 145,000 women, infants and children each month through a statewide network of 140 WIC clinics. Indiana WIC supports $105 million in food sales at more than 600 Indiana WIC-authorized grocery stores and pharmacies. IHN is partnering with WIC to increase utilization of this important program via social media and online marketing. View our recent videos