Food Pantry Supports Riley Team

March 5, 2021
Topics: Donors, About Us

Riley food pantry 2021.05.03 full size

Donor-supported food pantry boosts Riley team members, patients during time of need

There are few words from those who come through the doors of the food pantry at Riley Hospital for Children. Sometimes, there is just silence. With a flash of their badge, hospital team members in need look over the shelves of non-perishable food and collect items for their families.

Kat Winton knows all too well the circumstances visitors are facing. “The ongoing pandemic has meant so much change for everyone,” says Winton, Riley Pantry Project Coordinator. “Some have gone from a two-income household to a one-income household. They could be caring for a sick or elderly family member.” She says the added burden of children e-learning at home increases the need for food.

The pantry has served over 20,000 pounds of food to more than 600 families since May of 2020. This year, Winton says demand is up. There have already been around 250 families seeking assistance in the first 45 days of 2021.

Donate to the Riley Food Pantry

The pantry is open three days a week for walk-in visits from hospital team members. The pantry is also serving patients and families through the Riley Emergency Department and two outpatient clinics, and it is working with inpatient and outpatient social workers to provide assistance when an acute food need is identified for a patient family.

Looking ahead, the food pantry will move into a larger space which will allow it to reach more patient families in need.


Donations to Riley Children’s Foundation helped establish and sustain the program.

The Riley Relief Fund, launched last spring at the onset of the coronavirus crisis, covered start-up costs, shelving, boxes, and expansion of permanent space inside the hospital. It is also allowing the team to pay for basic food items.

Community partners have also joined the effort in a big way.

The Indianapolis Indians are donating a commercial refrigerator to the pantry, which will allow for the distribution of milk, cheese, and other perishable items. Rowdie, the Indians’ popular team mascot, visited Riley in January to mark the occasion and donate food.

“Our organization has been a proud partner of Riley Hospital for Children for many years, primarily through inpatient visits from Rowdie and players every summer,” said Joel Zawacki, assistant general manager of corporate sales & marketing for the Indianapolis Indians. “As we navigate the pandemic as a community, we are glad to offer our resources and assist in Riley’s hunger relief initiative that has provided food for hundreds of families.”

Kroger is also contributing $50,000 to support the pantry this year as part of its commitment to hunger relief.

“We see the addition of a food pantry as an extension of the care and compassion that has always been part of Riley. And, because of the pandemic, the timing couldn’t be better,” said Eric Halvorson, manager of corporate affairs for Kroger Central Division. “Kroger’s support for the pantry enables all Riley families to focus on recovery and the hospital’s world-class care. Beyond that, support for the pantry moves us closer to Kroger’s goal of ending hunger in the communities we serve.”


Kat Winton says the pantry is broadening its reach to assist Riley families who are food insecure. “Nobody wants to come home to an empty kitchen when they leave the hospital,” she says. Along with the need for fresh produce and meat, the pantry is also seeking funding for a van to procure and distribute food to those in need.

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Winton says one of her favorite parts of overseeing the pantry is witnessing the gratitude of those served. “Everyone has just been so grateful that the pantry is here and supported by IU Health and Riley.”

To help Riley families and hospital team members, please go to

Do you own or lead a company and want to learn more about how you can support Riley Hospital and the kids it serves? Contact Alane Helmer, assistant vice president for corporate and foundation giving, at or 317.759.6904.

Riley Blogger

The Riley Blog is written and/or edited by members of the Riley Children's Foundation Communications Staff.

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