Lilly Endowment Inc. Grants $10 Million to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana

Lilly Endowment Inc. Grants $10 Million to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana

  • Largest single gift in Gleaners history strengthens the long-term sustainability of the regional food bank by establishing a $9.5 million endowment
  • Invests in software and personnel in support of operations, fund-raising and financial management and vehicle fleet to enable dramatic increase in food distribution

Lilly Endowment Inc. has taken a significant step toward ensuring the long-term sustainability of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana with today’s announcement of a $10 million grant to the regional food bank.  The Lilly Endowment grant allows Gleaners to plan and invest strategically, enhancing Gleaners’ long-term capacity to serve hungry Indiana residents in 21 Indiana counties.

The grant is part of a $100 million initiative to 15 organizations that help low-income individuals and families in Indiana. The grants are designed to help the organizations enhance their long-term impact by building stronger financial futures.

Gleaners will use its grant in three ways, all contributing to a strategy that will generate substantially more food resources over the long-term. Gleaners, which has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, currently uses only 5% of funding for administrative expenses. This transformative investment should increase the percent of future donations going directly to food.

First, a $9.5 million endowment will be established. Each year the food bank may draw out the income in support of Gleaners operations in 21 Indiana counties.

Second, Gleaners will use an immediate $500,000 draw as part of a strategic transformation of the organization’s resource capacity, with a very clear process for gathering and distributing more food, especially in outlying counties. That includes adding three staff positions and investing in leading-edge technology. The Lilly Endowment resources are catalytic investments that allow the overall development strategy to move forward.

Third, Gleaners will add additional cost-effective scale by investing in software upgrades to drive higher-volume, higher-efficiency operations and financial management. Lilly Endowment grant funds, combined with grant funds from two other donors, also will add to Gleaners’ fleet resources in support of healthy, nutritious perishable food distribution.

Donation revenue accounts for over 90% of all support received by Gleaners on an annual basis. While extremely generous, the new Gleaners endowment created with Lilly Endowment funding will provide an estimated 2.5% of the more than $8 million per year Gleaners must raise from all donors. The need for support from an increasingly diverse mix of food and financial donors is increasing, not decreasing.  Gleaners needs more than $45 million per year in perishable and non-perishable food donations to maintain the current level of operations. In addition, $5 million in cash is used annually to purchase food at deep discounts.

Gleaners Quote:

In response to the Lilly Endowment grant, John Elliott, president & CEO of Gleaners, said, “The number of food insecure Hoosiers remains unchanged since the 2008 recession.  This is driven by continued high rates of poverty and underemployment. The economy has not improved for everyone. We believe this very significant, generous sustaining grant from Lilly Endowment is essential to achieving our strategic vision of food for every table and hope for every future. Combined with Lilly Endowment’s investments in 14 other poverty-fighting organizations, the families and local communities we serve now have a far better opportunity than ever before to escape poverty and enjoy more fulfilling lives. The funds provided by Lilly Endowment are the hardest to raise and, frankly, we could not proceed with this strategic transformation of our resource development team without their incredible generosity. They are providing the foundation upon which we will build a dramatic increase in food distribution for our hungry Hoosier neighbors.”

Elliott added, “As the heightened urgency of our mission forces Gleaners to continue evolving, we have moved away from a traditional model of gathering loose cans to one which emphasizes cash versus food donations, a more diverse donor base and focused, impactful community partnerships. Gleaners must continuously improve the effectiveness of programming that provides nutritional food to all who need it, where and when they need it.  Lilly Endowment’s generosity allows us to concurrently focus on organizational sustainability and nimbly evolving the most effective mix of programs and services across 21 Indiana counties.”

“The grants offer transformative opportunities for the organizations to secure strong financial futures,” said Ace Yakey, the Endowment’s vice president for community development. “Unlike support for day-to-day operations, these funds will help each organization strengthen its financial infrastructure so it can serve more people over the long-term and weather unexpected financial challenges. These grants do not alleviate the need for the organizations to attract ongoing support for their efforts. Indeed, we hope the grants will help them more effectively attract support for their important work.”

Gleaners Background:

The human impact of high food insecurity is devastating. In Gleaners’ 21-county service area, there are 328,270 food insecure Hoosiers – including 109,270 food insecure children.  In Marion County alone, an estimated 177,940 residents live in households without sufficient resources to ensure that all family members have enough nutritious food to ensure their health and well-being. Marion County has a food insecurity rate of 19.4%, the highest rate of all 92 Indiana counties.  Most disturbing of all, according to the latest estimates, nearly 51,000 Marion County children—one out of five—are food insecure, at a rate of 22.2%.

With the help of very generous support from the community, including additional Lilly Endowment grants since the 2008 financial crisis, Gleaners has built the infrastructure necessary to distribute more than 30 million pounds of food into local communities each year – the equivalent of 25 million meals, double the level of 2008.  Three factors made this ambitious level of distribution possible: moving in 2010 to our 300,000 square foot distribution center, hiring additional staff to diversify our mix of supporters, and new, innovative food distribution programs that nimbly respond to record-breaking need.

Since moving into the new distribution center in April 2010, Gleaners’ staff has grown from 49 to 72.  We also utilized the help of more than 32,400 volunteers contributing more than 103,000 hours in 2016, equal to 50 additional full-time staff positions.

The ability of the hunger relief network to keep up with record-breaking need for food assistance is under pressure from the following factors:

  • We continue to operate in a challenging fund-raising environment.  In recent months, donations to traditional charitable organizations, including hunger relief, are flat and in some instances, dropping.  There is intense pressure for charitable donations within a very crowded space.  Economic and political uncertainty is expected to extend this challenging fund-raising environment for the foreseeable future.
  • The cost of food is rising and food manufacturers are seeking greater efficiencies, which mean fewer donations to food banks from traditional corporate supporters.  This results in food banks’ needing to raise more funds to purchase food just to sustain the current level of programs, with little likelihood of growing food distribution capacity.
  • The USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides nourishment to food insecure Hoosiers through food pantries that are supplied by Gleaners, sustained a 33% reduction in funding in fiscal year 2015, meaning less food for hungry families in Gleaners’ service area.
  • Health care, food safety, and other government regulatory changes continue to increase the cost of doing business.  Gleaners projects over $100,000 in incremental operating costs in 2017 just from the impact of legal or other regulatory requirements – translating to more than 300,000 meals we could not provide to hungry Hoosiers.

About Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, Inc.

On a yearly basis, hundreds of thousands of hungry Hoosiers depend on food and other critical grocery products provided by Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. Gleaners supplies items to hunger relief agencies and schools throughout 21 counties in central and southeast Indiana.

Gleaners was founded in 1980 and is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network. Since its inception, Gleaners has distributed over 436 million pounds of food and critical grocery products to over 230 hunger relief agencies serving needy Hoosiers. In addition to food distribution to hunger relief agencies, Gleaners serves our most vulnerable populations - seniors, veterans and children - through specialty programs such as the BackSacks: Weekend Food for Kids, School-Based Pantry, Mobile Pantry, Summer Meals for Kids, and Senior Hunger Initiative Programs. To learn more, visit www.gleaners.org .

About Lilly Endowment Inc. 

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly and his two sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., with gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical company. The Endowment is primarily committed to the causes of community development, education and religion and has a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state, Indiana.