CEO: Gleaners Focusing on Health, Hunger 'Convergence'

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John Elliott was named CEO of Gleaners in 2016. John Elliott was named CEO of Gleaners in 2016.

The chief executive officer of Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis says the regional produce processing center launched in 2017 is performing very well. In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, John Elliott said the center is growing Gleaners' effort to serve the healthiest, most nutritious food possible to those who are hungry. He adds the effort is part of an overall mission to deal with the convergence of hunger and health.

Elliott says there are three concrete actions the nonprofit has taken to address the convergence. "The regional produce center is one. We've hired the first dietician for a food bank in the state and we're going to wear her out serving our 21 counties any way we can and then also our partner, St. Vincent Health, has opened a clinic next to the food pantry in our building and they're serving the same client population that we provide food to."

Elliott says, even if Gleaners doesn't "move the needle" on the number of people who are food insecure, the organization knows it can make a difference on nutrition on nutrition and wellness measures. He says part of the challenge for 2018 is dealing the volume of produce that will be distributed.

"We went from, two years ago, a million pounds of produce to four million pounds last year and we're going to distribute nine million pounds in our 21 counties this year, so that alone is a daunting challenge," said Elliott. "We also need to be helping raise the capacity of the local agencies. We work with 600 local agencies across our 21 counties alone; They need to be able to raise their capacity particularly around sharing perishable food."

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