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Ind. food banks seek sharp jump in state funding

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — Food banks across Indiana say state lawmakers need to include money to feed the hungry in the budget they will craft this year.

Eleven food banks that make up FIsH — Feeding Indiana's Hungry — are asking the public to help them secure $3 million to $5 million in state funding, the Tribune-Star reported ( ).

The request is a large jump from the $291,000 the group received last year and expects to receive this year. Emily Bryant, executive director of FIsH, said that money enabled the group to buy about 500,000 pounds of food, which was less than 1 percent of the total amount of food distributed from the food banks.

The General Assembly budgeted $300,000 for the group in both 2010 and 2011, but the state's Office of Management and Budget never approved distribution of the funds.

FIsH, which served nearly 700,000 people in 2010, hopes to have more success this year.

"We are working very hard to make a case that we are good stewards of the funding," Bryant said. "Our food banks have more than half a million square feet of warehouse space and a fleet of more than 80 vehicles that (would let us) purchase more product and move more product."

Bryant noted that the Ohio Association of Foodbanks received $12.5 million from Ohio officials last year.

John Etling, executive director of Catholic Charities and treasurer of FIsH, said increased state funding would allow FIsH members to buy more food grown or manufactured in Indiana — up to an additional 20 million pounds.

"It could be melons from farms in Vincennes, or dairy farms statewide that produce milk. There are a lot of pork and cattle producers in Indiana, poultry producers, there are turkey farmers and even sweet corn," Etling said.

"We are asking the state to be a bigger partner in reducing hunger amongst the population, particularly the poor," Etling said.

A public service announcement created as part of a Statehouse food drive asks the public to donate to food banks but doesn't directly address state funding.