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University of Indianapolis students grow fresh food for south side neighbors in need

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Every Wednesday afternoon, the La Luz Del Mundo “Light of the World” Church dedicates its parking lot to feeding their neighbors on the south side. Nonprofit South Indy Quality Plan of Life (SoIndy), the University of Indianapolis and the Community Health Network come together to serve people with a need; especially after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gurinder Hohl with the University of Indianapolis says in the fight against food insecurity, COVID-19 only made the battle tougher. She says prior to the pandemic, 21% of the households in Marion County were already food insecure.

“As more people have lost their jobs, they don’t have the ability to put food on the table,” Hohl said. “With the COVID pandemic, the number of households in Marion County, specifically, have increased that need (for) food on a consistent basis.”

SoIndy’s Michelle Strahl-Salinas says she knew the impact was real when a nearby soup kitchen lost it’s ability to feed people in need.

“They had a lot of volunteers that were in that high-risk group so they couldn’t continue to operate,” Strahl-Salinas said.

Gleaners Food Bank stepped in to help with boxes of non-perishable food and the university offered its most valuable resource to help provide meals for their south side neighbors.

“The produce is grown by students,” Hohl said. “They are responsible for planting, harvesting and taking care of the gardens. Some of the students even get to participate in giving to people who drive up to get a much-needed meal.”

“It’s really a blessing that we still have the resources to take care of the people or our community,” student Gavin Craig said. “The people who are basically in our back yard at the University.”

“We, as a group, have grown something out of the ground and are feeding people in our community,” Bronwyn Getts said. “It’s an amazing feeling. It’s a feeling of warmth and of pride. It’s something that we have put our heart and soul into and knowing that it’s good quality organic produce that is going to help people.”

Hohl says she wanted to understand the impact they could make from the fruits of their labor. “This gives them that hands-on experience where they not only get to work in the gardens and grow the produce, but they are also interacting with community members and distributing the produce,” she said.

Hohl also wants the word to keep getting out because she still believes many individuals in the neighborhoods nearest to Garfield Park still don’t know about the food resources they are making available. She also wants to encourage people who have fallen on hard times.

“Do not feel any shame picking up this food,” Hohl said. “If they need this to stay healthy, to be able to feed their kids, then it is available and accessible to them.”

If you know of someone in need, the food pick-up starts at 1:30 p.m. every Wednesday and organizers say it’s usually over in an hour.

Location: 2842 Shelby St Indianapolis, IN 46203

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