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Jacobs School faculty, students address food insecurity through music

Music feeds the soul, but it can also feed the hungry thanks to Music for Food, an organization in its 13th season with musicians performing to relieve food insecurity in 20 chapter cities worldwide. This year’s benefit concert in Bloomington takes place at 3 p.m. Feb. 26 at First United Methodist Church.

Sung-Mi Im. Photo courtesy of the Jacobs School of Music Sung-Mi Im. Photo courtesy of the Jacobs School of Music

Pianist Sung-Mi Im began the Bloomington chapter, now in its second year, to support Hoosier Hills Food Bank. A lecturer in chamber music at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Im said the timing was perfect when she was asked to start a Music for Food chapter in Bloomington, the town she has called home since the late ’90s.

“It was something that I had been looking for: a way of contributing to the local community,” Im said. “I feel like I’ve been receiving so much all my life, and it’s time to give.”

Im grew up in South Korea, where she began playing the piano at age 3. She earned her Master of Music in Boston before moving to Indiana. Im said it feels good to be able to help through her music.

“I feel so grateful, and I have this feeling of contentment that, through what I do, I can start chipping in and make a contribution to the local community,” Im said. “It’s a such a heartwarming experience for me.”

The concert features music from composers Schubert, Faure and Brahms. Fellow Jacobs School faculty members Eric Kim, Stephen Wyrczynski and Kyung Sun Lee will join Im on stage. Francesco Granata, a current graduate student, will also perform.

Im, who once did a concert tour at nontraditional venues to reach a diverse audience, hopes the concert draws students and faculty from Jacobs as well as community members and students who are newer to classical music.

Pianist Sung-Mi Im plays in a trio with Grigory Kalinovsky, Jacobs School professor of music, and... Pianist Sung-Mi Im plays in a trio with Grigory Kalinovsky, Jacobs School professor of music, and his son, Serge Kalinovsky, while assisted by Jacobs student Dongwon Shin during the inaugural Bloomington Food for Music concert in 2022. Photo courtesy of Sung-Mi Im

All funds raised at the concert will go directly to Hoosier Hills Food Bank, a regional organization based in Bloomington that serves six counties. The food bank helps those in need from all spectrums of society. Among those they serve are rural seniors who are isolated and lack the income or transportation to get the food they need. They also partner with other organizations, such as Crimson Cupboard Food Pantry, which assists students facing food insecurity.

Julio Alonso, executive director of Hoosier Hills Food Bank, said there was an expectation that as the COVID-19 pandemic cooled, food insecurity would become less of a problem. However, the rise in inflation greatly increased food insecurity in the region.

“Everything changed last spring,” Alonso said. “When food and gas prices started going through the roof, our agencies and programs saw significant increases in people needing food assistance. It’s been kind of relentless for the last three years.”

Alonso said financial support is important at this time because the food bank relies increasingly on purchasing food. Donated food from the community, grocery stores and restaurants helps, but Alonso said those sources cannot keep pace with the need.

Nonperishable food donations. Photo by Getty Images

“We have to buy food to supplement,” he said. “We’re always talking about three main pillars of support that are needed: donate, volunteer and advocate. We use somewhere between 1,600 and 2,000 volunteers a year, and we couldn’t possibly do it without their support.

“Advocacy is increasingly important. We are on the front lines trying to make sure people have the food that they need every day, but the only way our work will become less important and less significant is through policy changes over time. We want everyone from local to federal government to pay more attention to the food insecurity problem and take steps that will address it.

“We are grateful and excited that the Music for Food concert is happening again this year.”

The concert is open to all who wish to attend. Donations can be offered at the door. Suggested donations are $30 for adults and $10 for students, but Im said any amount is welcome. Donations to Music for Food are tax deductible, and those who are unable to attend the concert have the option to donate online.

Julia Hodson is a communications consultant in the Office of the Vice President for Communications and Marketing.