Komets Kare Package helping VA start food pantry

Students from from Monroeville's St. Rose de Lima Catholic School recently visited the VA Hospital to help stock a new food pantry. (Courtesy photo)
There are at least 12 boxes of emergency food supplies ready to be given to needy veterans. (Courtesy photo)
Students from Monroeville's St. Rose de Lima Catholic School recently helped VA workers stock a new food pantry. (Courtesy photo)
Northern Indiana Veterans Administration Health System workers have been organizing items donated during Komets Kare Package into a food pantry for veterans. (Courtesy photo)

The Northern Indiana Veterans Administration Health System has opened a new food pantry stocked primarily with donations from Komets Kare Package. The pantry, located at 2121 Lake Ave. in the VA Hospital, is open to serve veterans.

“Right now, it’s being shared with our staff, and if a veteran comes in and has a special circumstance or a need we are able to provide them a box of items,” said VA Voluntary Services Manager Erica Jones. “Our goal is they can come in once a month and get items as needed.”

Fans donated approximately $4,000 worth of items during the 10th annual Komets Kare Package event over games Nov. 3 and 4.

“We have had a great response from Komet Kare Package and a couple of others who have seen pictures or heard about it and made donations,” Jones said.

Sponsored by News-Sentinel.com, the Komets, WANE and Federal Express, the program started in 2007 as a way to donate items for Indiana men and women serving in the armed services through Hoosiers Helping Heroes. When the founder of that organization passed away, Komets Kare Package switched to the VA as the primary charity two years ago. The Northern Indiana system serves more than 45,000 veterans throughout the region.

Because of regulations, the VA is prohibited from asking for donations but is allowed to provide information when asked what they need.

Food pantries are a national priority for the VA, especially to help homeless veterans. Local organizers started the new location in January by having emergency food boxes available. The next phase would be to make food boxes available to all needy veterans and their families followed by a full-fledged pantry possibly by mid-summer. There’s no way to tell how many people could be served under the new system.

More volunteers are needed and interested people can contact Jones at 260-426-5431 Ext. 73114 or by email at Erica.Jones@va.gov. The pantry also provides opportunities for veterans doing work therapy. This could also be a great service project for schools, as shown by a recent visit

to help stock shelves.

“We’re still trying to spread the word. We definitely would like more donations so we can open as a full pantry,” said Nutrition and Food Service Assistant Chief Tiane Bianski. “It’s going to continue to make a difference.”

Donations can also be delivered by contacting Jones. Requested items include pasts, boxed macaroni and cheese, tuna-, chicken- or Hamburger Helper, boxed rice and potato varieties, soup, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, beans, canned pasta, canned meats, snack items, canned fruits and vegetables, snack bars, cereal/oatmeal, pudding or gelatin, coffee, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap and deodorant.