Established in 1980, Gleaners is the largest food bank in Indianapolis and hub of a network of affiliated food banks throughout the city and in 21 counties in Central and Southeastern Indiana. Its goal is to achieve a hunger-free central and southeast Indiana by distributing food to those in need while investing in fresh produce and nutritious menu items, thereby supporting the overall health of Indiana’s vulnerable citizens. Initial organizational funding came from the Office of Economic Opportunity through community action against poverty

Gleaners President John Elliott unveils the organization’s new strategic plan at a press conference on Monument Circle, 2020 Credit: Erica Irish, WFYI View Source

During its first year of operation in 1980, the food bank distributed 83,021 pounds of food to 35 agencies. Gleaners hired its first full-time staff person in February 1981. Grants from lilly endowment, inc. and Christ Church Cathedral’S Lilly Memorial Trust in 1981 and 1982 allowed Gleaners to expand food banking statewide; helped create the nation’s first affiliate food bank network, Feeding America; and funded the development of an equitable allocation system based upon poverty population percentages. In August 1981, it became an official Feeding American certified affiliate.

Gleaners’ growth reflects the need for healthy food in the Indianapolis area. The food bank’s 1992 income of $1 million came from gifts, grants, and direct mail solicitation. It has received support from the Church Federation Of Greater Indianapolis, its first fiscal agent, and from the Indianapolis Foundation (a fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation), which renovated Gleaners’ first building and holds joint ownership in its present building. That same year, 6.5 million pounds were distributed to over 250 soup kitchens, pantries, shelters, and other hunger-relief charities.

Since its inception, Gleaners has distributed just over 500 million pounds of food and critical grocery products to nearly 600 agencies, distributing 42 million pounds in the fiscal year 2019. A majority of the food bank’s total revenue of $88.5 million in 2019 came from food donations, while approximately 11.4 percent came from gifts and donations.

As the largest food bank in Indiana, Gleaners serves as a wholesale distributor and a direct provider of food relief to roughly one-third of the food insecure population in Indiana. It also operates the Midwest Produce Processing Center, one of eight regional produce cooperatives established by Feeding America around the nation. The cooperative currently serves 14-member food banks throughout the Midwest and distributed 14.5 million pounds of produce in 2018.

Students volunteering at Gleaners Food Bank, 2007 Credit: University Library, IUPUI via Wikimedia Commons View Source

The food bank is a Kroger Central Division Reclamation Center, recovering food and non-food products from stores in Indiana and Illinois that would otherwise be wasted. It redistributes those products to people in need.

Gleaners is one of about a dozen food banks across the country that serves as a natural disaster response site for Feeding America while also serving as a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) storage site.

Revised March 2021

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