Editor’s note: The following is a press release from United Way of Monroe County. Bloom has republished it here with minor edits for style and clarity.

United Way of Monroe County has announced a new regional effort, United Against Hunger. Developed in response to the COVID-19 crisis, United Against Hunger aims to increase overall food security and availability of healthy food choices for vulnerable populations impacted by the pandemic. The initiative was made possible by grant support from the Indiana University Health Foundation under the IU Health Community Impact Investment Fund.

The need for healthy food in the Bloomington area has increased dramatically over the past 18 months and is likely to increase without intervention. United Against Hunger seeks to address this by scaling up life-changing, sustainable, coordinated measures to assure that no one in our region goes hungry or malnourished. With this goal in mind, United Against Hunger has provided a total of $94,500 in funding to the following agencies and projects:

Area 10 Agency on Aging ($5,500) is working to increase food security for older adults and individuals with disabilities in Monroe County. Thanks to United Against Hunger funding, they will provide nutrition education workshops to seniors who are in USDA-defined food deserts.

Community Kitchen ($10,000) provides dinner for anyone in need, no questions asked, from two locations. Thanks to United Against Hunger, Community Kitchen has increased the number of vegetables at each dinner, improving the nutrition provided by each meal.

Hoosier Hills Food Bank’s ($24,000) Food Equity Project was awarded$24,000to improve outreach and services to potentially underserved Black, Latino, and Native communities in the south-central Indiana portion of HHFB’s service area. To date, they have hosted a mobile equity food pantry on four different occasions in an area identified as having a significant number of people of color living in poverty. The Food Bank plans to identify and add more high poverty areas in the future.

Monroe County United Ministries ($16,500) provides two homemade, nutritious, hot meals plus snacks each day for children at its Compass Early Learning Center. With 40% of those enrolled living in households considered extremely low income, this is the only place where some children have guaranteed well-balanced and nutritional meals. With United Against Hunger funds, they were able to serve 8,448 meals in the Compass food program during May and June of 2021.

Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard ($38,025) is using the funds from United Against Hunger to purchase produce from local farms for their food pantry. This increases the quality of food for their patrons and provides economic stability for local farmers. So far, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard has partnered with four local farmers who supply a variety of vegetables, meat, and eggs on a weekly basis.

“Our community is still recovering from the effect of the pandemic and food insecurity remains a serious concern. Our food distribution is still running about 14% higher than pre-pandemic levels. The United Against Hunger grant has helped us continue to provide fresh and nutritious food to many families in our region as we work toward building a better normal,” says Julio Alonso, executive director at Hoosier Hill’s Food Bank.

“Collaboration and engagement with community partners is a cornerstone to the IU Health Community Impact Investment Fund,” says Diane Buzzell, IU Health Foundation’s southern Indiana director. “The fund annually supports organizations, such as United Way of Monroe County, who want to advance innovative and transformative change in their local communities. These initiatives allow IU Health to work outside the walls of our hospitals and partner with community organizations to prevent health problems before they start and to create community resources to help along the way.”

“The pandemic helped shine a light on so many needs which have been exacerbated during the pandemic. Through this partnership and funding from IU Health and IU Health Foundation, United Way and our United Against Hunger partners are able to create lasting change to help lift more families and individuals out of the food insecurity they struggle with,” adds Efrat Feferman, executive director at United Way of Monroe County.

To learn more about how United Way is transforming our community and ways to get involved, visit monroeunitedway.org.