DANVILLE — The Hendricks County Food Pantry Coalition reflected on its most demanding year yet during a luncheon last Friday at Hendricks Regional Health.
According to in-house numbers provided by the coalition's 22 pantries, they collectively served almost 12,000 families in 2012 (measured from Nov. 30 of last year to Dec. 1 of this year). That marks a 22 percent increase from the previous year. Before that the increase had only been 6 percent.
"If I had to spend 22 percent more on food, that would hurt me," said Steven Hamilton, an associate pastor at Grace Pointe Church of the Nazarene who was elected president of the food pantry coalition this year. "It's hurting every one of these pantries to have to provide that many more meals."
Stilesville Christian Church's food pantry is a typical example. They served 15 families when Bill Matlock assumed management of the facility a couple of years ago. That number is in the triple digits now. It's grown so dramatically that Matlock's afraid they can only be open once a month now instead of twice.
"Things like paper towels and toilet paper are as popular as food. It's been tough keeping items like that in stock," said Matlock, noting that health and beauty products can't be bought using government food stamps. "I even have people ask me for money for gas. I tell them we're a small congregation and can't afford that."
Gleaners Food Bank of Indianapolis recently distributed food at Stilesville Christian Church. Matlock says in two hours they served 245 families. He'd like to conduct a job fair there in similar fashion.
"The people I see really want to be able to provide for themselves," Matlock said. "They just don't have the means right now."