Gas. Groceries. Household items. Services. You have probably felt the increases in your own life as you purchase things for your family. Everything is costing more recently, and the number of families we are serving at the Mary Lee Maier Community Pantry reflects the strain this increase has put on families in our community. The MLMCP serves families and employees of the Avon Community School Corporation on the west side of Indianapolis. Clients can get food weekly 44 weeks out of the year. Since the pantry began in 2016, we have seen a steady increase, but nothing like the n
umbers over the past several months. We are serving 50% more families per week than in 2019, pre pandemic. However, we have also seen a 25% increase in families since January of this year, showing that the impact of inflation is hitting hard. In addition to inflation, many COVID relief initiatives are going away which is also leading to an increase in food insecurity. As one example, our schools have been in session for almost a month, and this year, students no longer automatically receive free breakfast and lunch every day. Families must now complete paperwork to qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch. Sometimes this can be a challenge due to language barriers and other difficulties. Other rent and energy assistance programs are ending. SNAP benefits are no longer being paid out at the maximum amount for every family, but scaled to income levels, so some families are seeing a decrease in assistance.
Each week, our line gets longer, and we are consistently getting 5-10 new families signing up every week. You can see the strain in people’s faces and hear the thankfulness in their voices as we interact with them each week. We continue to work with our community to help provide relief for those in need; however, we are also feeling the impact of higher prices when purchasing food. As the needs in our community increase, we are doing our best to keep up with the needs. We strive to make sure that the children in our community have adequate nutrition to help set them up for the best possible learning environment. It’s hard to learn when you are hungry! We continue to look for new connections and resources to help with our mission and make sure we are meeting the basic need of food for children and their families in our school community. They are our future, and many rely on our help each week.