The need for a food bank in Omaha became increasingly apparent as a growing number of people struggled to procure sufficient food to feed themselves and their families. Recognizing this need, Gene Hanlon, Bob McGinnis and Rev. Vic Schoonover collaborated with the Omaha Food Pantry Association to form the Omaha Food Bank in 1981 in a 3,800 square-foot warehouse. The following year the Food Bank distributed 38,800 pounds of food to 21 nonprofit agencies.
In 1999 the Food for Seniors Program began, in which bakery and fresh produce items were delivered to seniors living in low-income housing in Omaha and Council Bluffs. That same year the Food Bank distributed 5,390,000 pounds of food to 253 agencies.
The first Kids Cafe opened in 2001; today there are 14 Kids Cafe sites in Omaha and Council Bluffs that provide evening meals to at-risk children. The Food Bank’s BackPack Program was launched in 2006 with three schools and has grown to feed 3,900 children each week in 150 schools across Nebraska and western Iowa.
In 2009 the Food Bank underwent a rebranding initiative, changed its name to Food Bank for the Heartland and unveiled a new logo. The new name better reflects the organization’s mission of serving hungry individuals and families not just in Omaha but in most of Nebraska and western Iowa.
The Food Bank moved into a larger, more dynamic headquarters at 10525 J Street in Omaha in August 2011. The 76,320-square-foot facility will allow more food to be distributed to the increasing number of people in the community who are hungry.
Today Food Bank for the Heartland is the largest food bank in Nebraska and Iowa, encompassing 93 counties in a two-state region and distributing approximately nine million pounds of food annually. The organization serves more than 325 food pantries, emergency shelters, after-school programs, senior housing sites and rehabilitation centers in the community.