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Food pantries brace for surge in need

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A community center on the city’s west side has fed residents in need for more than a century, and it hasn’t stopped during the current public health crisis.

Members of the Indiana National Guard and close to a dozen regular staff members and volunteers at Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center have put in several hours of their time in preparation for their once-a-week food delivery service.

“You can’t get out and make ends meet,” said Daniel Denny.

Denny is on Social Security and says he had been working part-time to make ends meet, that was until the pandemic shut down the economy. On Wednesday he visited the Mary Rigg food pantry for the second time in two weeks. Denny was in line at 12:30 p.m., thinking the crowd would be overwhelming, something that Andrew Lee, the mission director at Mary Rigg Neighborhod Center planned for.

“We have made adjustment to our logistics in the past two weeks to accommodate the growth in numbers we are seeing; we are six weeks in and seeing twice as many people as we used to,” said Lee.

Lee says the community center is planning for a surge in need in the next couple of weeks. Many people in the neighborhood received stimulus checks and are now buying groceries. But once the stimulus money runs out, Lee expects community members to come back to the pantry for food.

“Six weeks from now when we have 400 people coming through in a week, that will require us to adapt how we work and it means we will be asking the food banks for more,” said Lee.

Midwest Food Bank is one of the food banks that supplies the center. John Whitaker, executive director of Midwest Food Bank, says some recent donations have put them in good shape for the next several weeks, but there are still shortages.

“Right now probably what we see the shortage most of is canned products, they seem to be in short supply,” said Whitaker.

Back on the west side, there is nervous anticipation that there is food in the pantry, but for how long?

“I don’t think we are going back to a 3% unemployment rate when this is all over and it is not until we start rolling back some of these assistance programs, businesses go back to work, that is when we are going to see the true impact of the pandemic” said Lee.