According to the US Department of Agriculture, 1 in 4 Americans are currently on a government supported feeding program, and more than 10% of the population is enrolled in the food stamps program. Service agencies in South Central Indiana are working to keep up with demand.
The Hoosier Hills Food bank currently provides food for more than 90 different agencies in eight counties in South-Central Indiana. Executive Director Julio Alonso says the demand for food has increased greatly in just the past few years.
“The last four years, the output of food we’ve provided at Hoosier Hills Food Bank has increased 92%,” Alonso says. “Four years ago we were distributing 1.6 million pounds of food, last year we distributed 3.1 million pounds.”
Community Kitchen Executive Director Vicki Pierce says she’s recently noticed an unsettling trend in who her agency serves.
“What we’ve started to see,” she explains, “at about that 3-4 year mark ago, was starting to see more and more children in our dining room. It used to be unusual to see children in our dining room; not that it never happened, but it didn’t happen with any frequency. Now, it’s unusual not to see children in the dining room daily.”
Though many people see soup kitchens and food banks as mere band-aids to the problem of hunger in the community, Pierce sees her organization as a money management tool for families struggling financially.
“For some people,” Pierce says, “eating at Community Kitchen IS managing their money. They can eat at the Kitchen, or they can go to United Ministries or Mother Hubbard’s or other pantries served by the food bank, and that allows them to have money to pay their rent, or buy their medicine.”
The Community Kitchen recently purchased a new building which will include a new family dining room. Pierce says the facility could be open as soon as next Thanksgiving.