For families already struggling financially, the holidays are an even more difficult time with some choosing between food and Christmas gifts for their children.

That’s why local food pantries say now is their busiest time of year.

During the week before Thanksgiving, between 110 and 120 people came daily to the Interchurch Food Pantry looking for the fixings for a holiday meal. And volunteers doled out turkeys, vegetables and mashed potatoes.

The number of people who visited the county’s largest pantry that week was the most ever, and other food pantries across the county are seeing an increase in the amount of people who need help feeding their families during the holidays, pantry managers said.

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Holidays are the busiest time of the year for local food pantries, as people’s budgets are stretched even tighter. When other expenses, such as preparing holiday meals, buying gifts and higher utility bills to heat their home, put families over budget, their solution often is to visit a food pantry, Interchurch Food Pantry manager Carol Phipps said.

But, while more people are visiting food pantries, more people are also generous with their donations this time of year, helping with the extra need, local food pantry managers said.

Interchurch is used to serving between 80 and 100 people daily. More than 100 has become the norm over the holidays, Phipps said.

“Families are trying to stretch their dollar,” she said. “When they can save their food dollars by coming to a pantry, it is a good thing.”

At the food pantry in the IMPACT Center at Mount Pleasant Christian Church, volunteers are used to seeing 320 families during the Thursdays and Saturdays they are open. But the number of families visiting the Center Grove area pantry began ticking up around October, when enrollment began for their Thanksgiving meal giveaway, said Steve Saunders, director of the IMPACT Center.

Since then, about 400 people a week is normal, Saunders said.

“That brings a lot of people to us,” he said.

At the Refuge in Greenwood, about 200 people picked up Thanksgiving meal boxes. The food pantry is used to serving between 40 and 60 families weekly, said Marcie Farley, office coordinator.

Their uptick also started in October when people knew that they could sign up for holiday help, she said.

“We do see an increase this time of the year, mostly because of the extra assistance we give,” Farley said.

However, an increase in families needing help is also offset by a generous community willing to give more this time of year, pantry managers said.

Civic groups, churches, businesses and personal donors and volunteers are moved to give during the holidays, which allows the pantries to keep up with the increased amount of people seeking help, pantry managers said.

“The higher amount of donations helps increase the volume, which carries into January and February,” Phipps said.

Local groups also run food drives during the holiday season, Saunders said.

And monetary donations are about three times higher during the holidays, he said.

While receiving donations of canned food items and other perishable goods is always welcome, monetary donations are also especially needed around the holidays, Phipps said.

Food pantries often have arrangements with central Indiana food banks, farms and grocery stores to get fresh food, such as milk, meat, butter, cheese and fresh produce, at a discount or at cost. So a dollar given to the food pantry can go further than a person shopping for food to donate, and the money can be used when the food pantry most needs it and on items that are not regularly donated, Phipps said.

At a glance

Need help or want to help?

Here is a listing of local food pantries in the county, when they are open and how to donate:

» CARE Food Pantry

Location: 2911 S. Morgantown Road, Greenwood

Hours: 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Friday when Center Grove schools are in session.

Eligibility: Recipients must provide photo ID as well as proof of residence in Johnson County. Recipients may visit the pantry once a month.

Donations: Food and toiletries are accepted when school is in session from 9 to 11 a.m. Fridays. For large donations, call the office to arrange a time for drop-off.

Information: 317-885-5242

» Christ United Methodist Church Food Pantry

Location: 8540 U.S. 31 South, Indianapolis

Hours: 9 to 11 a.m. Thursday.

Eligibility: Marion County residents and Johnson County residents who have 46142 and 46143 area codes.

Information: 317-882-1549

» Great Harvest Food Pantry — Grace Assembly of God

Location: 6822 U.S. 31 North, New Whiteland

Hours: 2 to 4 p.m. or 5 to 7 p.m. alternating Thursdays; 9 to 11 a.m. last Saturday of the month.

Information: 317-535-5640

» His Hand Extended Food and Clothing Pantry

Location: Trinity broadcasting, 2528 U.S. 31 South, Greenwood

Hours: 10 a.m. Thursday; a devotional service follows sign-in.

Eligibility: Services available to residents of Johnson, Morgan, Monroe, Jennings, Shelby and Bartholomew counties. A photo ID is required. Limited to first 30 households each week.

Donations: Non-perishable food items, clothing and small household items may be dropped off 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Information: 317-535-5542

» Interchurch Food Pantry of Johnson County

Location: 211 Commerce Drive, Franklin

Hours: Noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday.

Donations: Accepted during hours of operation.

Eligibility: Recipients must provide proof of residence in Johnson County; clients may visit twice per month.

Information: 317-736-5090, pantryjcmanager@gmail.com.

Johnson County Senior Services

Location: 731 S. State St., Franklin.

Hours: Individuals may call to place a food request and their order may be picked up the next business day. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Donations may be delivered during business hours.

Information: 317-738-4544

» Mount Pleasant Christian Church Impact Center

Location: 381 N. Bluff Road, Greenwood

Hours: Clients must be in the building during the following sign-in times: 9:15 to 9:40 a.m., 12:15 to 12:40 p.m., 6:15 to 6:40 p.m. Thursdays; and 9:15 to 9:40 a.m. Saturdays. Devotion and prayer will be shared prior to shopping at all client service times. Households may receive food one time per week and clothing one time per month.

Donations: Items may be dropped off 9 a.m. to noon Monday and Tuesday, 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday.

Eligibility: Adults — photo ID and two pieces of mail with the current address; dependents under age 18 — birth certificate or Social Security card.

Information: 317-889-9650

» Lord’s Locker

Location: 101 S. Pleasant St., Trafalgar

Open: Wednesday: 9 to 11 a.m. for senior citizens (over 60 only; clients must be in the building by 9:30 a.m. to receive food). 1 p.m. for heads of household (clients 40 to 59 years; must be in the building by 1:30 p.m. to receive food). Thursday: 6 p.m. for heads of household (ages 20 to 39 years; must be in the building by 6:30 p.m. to receive food). Devotion and prayer will be followed by food distribution and shopping.

Donations: Accepted 9 a.m. to noon Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. to noon the third Saturday of every month.

Eligibility: All new clients will be interviewed and evaluated for Strategies of Success programming. Clients will receive prayer and biblical counseling and other aid, such as job search help. Potential new clients can interview from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays. Potential clients should bring a photo ID; Social Security numbers for the head of household, spouse and children under 18; a current paid receipt of a utility, rent or mortgage with current address (P.O. boxes not accepted). The photo IDs will be required with each visit. Services will only be offered to residents of Johnson, Morgan and Brown counties. Non-residents will be given a list of other places to go for help.

Information: 317-878-7708

» New Life Fellowship Church of God

Location: 720 Main St., Whiteland.

Open: 10 a.m. to noon the second Saturday of each month.

Information: 317-535-7325, whitelandnewlifecog.com

» Our Lady of the Greenwood

Location: 335 S. Meridian St., Greenwood

Open: 11 a. m. to 2 p. m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, except when Parish office is closed.

Donations: Patrons can make donations at the red cart inside the back door of the church between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call the church for large donations.

Eligibility: Recipients must provide proof of residence with photo ID and must be income-qualified depending on household size.

Information: 317-888-2861

» The Refuge

Location: 65 Airport Parkway, Suite 114, Greenwood

Open: 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Donations: Accepted during office or pantry hours

Eligibility: All residents living in Johnson County may visit once per month.

Information: 317-889-7338

» SS. Francis & Clare Parish Harvest

Location: 5901 Olive Branch Road, Greenwood

Open: 9 a.m. to noon on the second and fourth Saturday of the month; 10 a.m. to noon second Wednesday of each month; 5 to 7 p.m. fourth Monday of the month.

Donations: Donations can be brought from 9 a.m. to noon the second and fourth Saturday.

Eligibility: All residents of Johnson and Morgan counties may visit the pantry once a month. Recipients must bring proof of residency and a picture ID.

Information: 317-859-4673

» The Salvation Army Food Pantry

Location: 325 Market Plaza, Greenwood

Open: 12:30 to 2:45 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Eligibility: Clients must be Johnson County residents and must bring the following information to receive help: proof of address; picture ID, and proof of income meeting federal poverty guidelines for assistance for everyone over the age of 18. Clients may visit the pantry every 60 days and provide information listed above each time they visit.

Information: Contact Ricky Hayes at the times listed above, 881-2505.

» Share ‘n’ Care Food Pantry

Location: 200 Sunset Blvd., Greenwood

Open: Noon and 3 p.m. Friday. Pantry also is closed during the winter in case of inclement weather. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Eligibility: All clients must present a Social Security card, driver’s license and proof of residency.

Information: 317-881-5743

» The Social of Greenwood

Location: 550 Polk St., Greenwood

Open: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday (closed every third Thursday) 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday

Eligibility: Anyone over age 50 with photo ID. Visits limited to once per week per household.

Information: 882-4810, thesocialofgreenwood.org

» St. Timothy Episcopal Church

Location: 2601 E. Thompson Road, Indianapolis

Open: 10 a.m. to noon and 6 to 8 p.m. the third Tuesday of every month.

Eligibility: Picture ID is required.

Information: 317-784-6925

» Trinity Broadcasting Network

Location: 2528 U.S. 31 South, Greenwood

Open: To receive food, you must arrive between 10 and 11 a.m. on Thursday; only first 30 people will be able to receive food.

Information: 317-535-5542

Author photo
Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mkritsch@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2770.