Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana has publicly launched a $25 million fundraising campaign it says will focus on the implementation of the nonprofit’s strategic initiatives. Led by a $5.5 million gift from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc., the funds raised from the Community Campaign for Gleaners will support a freezer expansion, technology upgrades, and other capital projects. The campaign was announced last week during a Leadership Luncheon in downtown Indianapolis.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Host Gerry Dick, outgoing Gleaners CEO John Elliott said he believes funding, technology and collaborations are beginning to close the meal gap in Indiana.
“Indiana has had a meal gap – that difference between what people need and what the charitable sector and others have been able to provide – and it has bothered me for decades that we casually talk about a meal gap,” said Elliott. “We not only have met the increased need from the pandemic and now from price inflation, we have been steadily shrinking that meal gap, and this goal that seemed unattainable years ago of closing the meal gap and having food for every person who’s hungry, it’s attainable.”
Gleaners says it has raised more than $17 million toward the $25 million goal. The funding will also be used to support capacity building for the organization’s downstream partners, its endowment and increased giving to Gleaners’ annual fund.
Elliott, who is retiring at the end of the month after six years leading the organization, says Gleaners has grown dramatically.
“The strategic plan that we spent all of 2018 building we kept describing as ambitious, and all of a sudden, we realized a year into the pandemic, we were checking off 2023 goals,” he said. “So, what was ambitious became not ambitious enough, but it gave us confidence that we could do those large things – volume, quality and other goals, adding new services and ways to take care of neighbors – and we could do more than that.”
Elliott says technology is the next wave of process improvement as Gleaners works to drive down costs.
In May, Gleaners named Fred Glass its next president and CEO. Glass, an attorney who previously served as athletic director at Indiana University, said his first priority is to listen.
“In the first month, I’m going to visit all 21 of our counties and the pantries in that service area. I’m going to meet with every one of our 100 employees in person [and] hear what they have to say,” said Glass. “I think it’ll benefit me to have external eyes. So, I’m going to start by listening and then formulate our plans as we go forward.”
The Leadership Luncheon featured Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot and had more than 400 attendees.