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Local food pantries rely on community support to fill gaps

BY CHELSEA BOULRISSE - cboulrisse@wabashplaindealer.com

The string of natural disasters that swept across the U.S. this year has put a strain on domestic food pantries.

The reason? Food and supplies are still being directed to storm victims in Texas, Florida and elsewhere, which means major suppliers are unable to provide food banks like the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana with enough donations to help local markets untouched by the storms.

“We’re still struggling and I don’t know how long that will last,” said Karen McTague, Second Harvest Food Bank’s major gifts manager. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. We try to be as proactive as we can.”

Community support has helped sustain the food bank while donations from large supplies are short, McTague said.

“In our eight-county service area we’re having people go ahead and send in gifts knowing we truly need it so that our food pantries can provide selections for the people we serve,” she explained. “We hope people continue to do that.”

As a result, some pantries in Wabash County are receiving fewer resources from Second Harvest and are seeking other avenues to keep shelves stocked.

One food pantry that is not short on supplies is the Community Cupboard, located in the Dallas L. Winchester Center, which has partnerships with major retailers like Kroger and Walmart.

“I don’t think we’re feeling the pinch,” said Beverly Ferry, executive director of Living Well in Wabash County, which oversees the Community Cupboard. “Where we saw the pinch has been in a lack of items we are able to order from (Second Harvest), but because of our collaboration with Second Harvest, we have contract with Walmart.”

Friends in Service Here (FISH) is currently do well too, but director Janet Shoe explained that the pantry typically serves more families over the holidays when kids are home from school. Adding to the problem is the fact that donations tend to increase during the holidays and then taper off in January.

“In November, it’s lots of great donations,” Shoe said. “Then we start giving all that out and our shelves start to get bare again come January, even end of December.”

Although the holidays often inspire people to dig a little deeper into their pockets to help out their neighbors, the problem of food insecurity is a year-round issue.

“The need is year-round,” Ferry said. “The need is steady and we move well more than a ton a week of food from the pantry.”