Food bank works to solve ‘10,000 year old problem’

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    Jim Carlisle walks through the Food Bank of Lincoln’s warehouse where he volunteers his time every Thursday.
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    Fred Schelert packs nonperishable food items into a cardboard box at the Food Bank of Lincoln where he volunteers his time every Thursday.
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    Fred Schelert (left) and Jim Carlisle sort through donated items. Both men have been volunteers at the Food Bank of Lincoln for almost five years.
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    Scott Young, executive director of the Food Bank of Lincoln, sits at his desk. Young has been executive director of the Food Bank for 13 years.
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    Boxes line a table in the warehouse of the Food Bank of Lincoln. Volunteers at the Food Bank organize and pack food items into boxes in preparation for transport.

Jim Carlisle knows he can’t end hunger, but once a week for the last five years, he tries.

“We’re solving the world’s problems out here while we sort food,” he joked. from the warehouse of the Food Bank of Lincoln, where he was volunteering his time.

In 2012, Feeding America, a national nonprofit organization, estimated that 248,000 Nebraskans were food insecure. Meaning out of Nebraska’s 1,868,516 residents 248,000 people didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. Of that number more than 56,000 live in southeastern counties of Nebraska.

In an effort to help the hungry, the staff and volunteers at the Food Bank of Lincoln are dedicated to their mission of alleviating hunger in Southeast Nebraska.

“Hunger is never going away — it’s a 10,000-year-old problem,” said Scott Young, executive director of the Food Bank.

“Hunger is a lot more complex than the handing of a bag of groceries to somebody, and handing a bag of groceries to somebody is a big deal. But it doesn’t end their hunger because when that bag of groceries is gone, they may need another bag,” Young said.

The Food Bank of Lincoln serves 16 Nebraska counties and Young said its seen nine million pounds of food come in and go through the door to those in need this year.

The Food Bank of Lincoln doesn’t have direct contact with those it feeds, but it distributes the food to 51 different agency partners, which then hand out the food to people in the nearby communities.

“Our job is to get the food to the places where it’s more convenient for our clients to get it,” said John Mabry, the Food Bank’s developmental director.

The work done by the Food Bank of Lincoln wouldn’t be possible without the money and foodstuffs donated by Nebraska residents and businesses.

“We have great community support,” Mabry said. “People are very generous here. It’s incredible, when we do our job and let people know about the need, folks step up and they help and so it’s a really cool thing to see.”

The efforts of the Food Bank wouldn’t be possible without its volunteers.

Young said that in 2013, 1,405 volunteers together clocked 58,000 hours of work. As expected, Young said there is an increased interest in volunteering around the holidays but “the hunger problem is a 12 month a year problem.”

Carlisle and Fred Schelert are two volunteers who lend their time to the Food Bank of Lincoln every Thursday.

“I guess the larger purpose is that we are helping out the community and doing this service for those people that are in need of food, and I think that that’s definitely a bigger purpose,” Schelert said.

Both Carlisle and Schelert have been volunteers at the Food Bank for almost five years and said it’s a rewarding experience.

Carlisle said the Food Bank is a good place with good people to visit with, while “at the same time doing something that’s very positive.”

Although both Young and Mabry think hunger is an issue that will remain, it is something that they will continue to fight against.

“There will always be under-resourced people,” Young said. “But on some level we can end hunger for individuals and for families.”

Food insecurity in counties served by the Food Bank

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