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Pantries work to fill need

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A Greenwood grandmother waited in line at a food pantry for the first time to get groceries for her family.

Tina Herwehe hasn’t been able to work since she injured her back and neck in a March car accident. And her husband’s warehouse job isn’t covering the rent and utility bills for their home, where they live with their 4-year-old granddaughter, she said.

Interchurch Food Pantry of Franklin gave Herwehe about $75 worth of groceries, which will free up money for other expenses, such as gas for her husband’s commute to work, she said.

Across the county, food pantries have seen a steady level of need for food each month. Interchurch Food Pantry, which gave food to more than 33,000 last year, has seen its numbers remain about the same. But other food pantries, including The Refuge and His Hand Extended in Greenwood, are set to significantly increase over the number of people served last year, according to pantry officials.

Food pantry clients talk about financial difficulties due to being unemployed, having to work low-paying jobs and not getting medical benefits through their jobs, said Kerry Jones, community impact coordinator for The Refuge.

The Refuge gave groceries to 8,017 residents of Johnson County and the southside in 2012 and already has provided food to 6,925 residents through June of this year.

Unemployment rates have lowered in recent years, and experts have said that the economy is recovering after the recession. But those numbers don’t seem to apply to central Indiana, based on what she sees each week, Jones said.

“A lot of feedback that we’re getting is that a lot of people are laid off or their hours have been cut,” she said. “Our personal opinion is that there are a lot more people who are hurting than statistics are showing.”

Other food pantries in the county also have seen steady growth in the number of residents they serve.

The food pantry at Our Lady of the Greenwood Catholic Church gave groceries to 2,715 families in 2012 and already has served 1,573 families during the first six months of 2013.

“We evidently have a lot of people that are having a tough time making it,” coordinator David Fyffe said.

The Lord’s Locker food pantry in Trafalgar gave food to 4,531 people during the first six months of 2013, a nearly 18 percent increase from the same period in 2012.

Pantry workers are often seeing families who used to live on two incomes who are struggling to support themselves and their children because one parent lost a job, executive director Emmalea Butler said.

“We’re seeing more people now that are working, but there are cutbacks on pay,” Butler said.

In the summer, families often come to the pantry because their children are home from school, and they need to provide the daily meals that the schools give them during the school year, she said.

Danielle Heagy, 25, of Franklin, visits the Interchurch pantry and another in the county as needed for her family. Heagy is a stay-at-home mother of two small children.

This spring, rain frequently prevented her husband from doing his landscaping work. In the winter, if there isn’t snow to clear, then he also is without work, she said.

Her family relies on food pantries for the times when her husband hasn’t worked in a while, they’re running low on food and starting to live off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, she said.

She is more likely to go to a food pantry at the end of a month if they have run out of money and cannot afford meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, she said. Cheap food tends to be unhealthy, and she often buys more expensive grocery items, like almond milk, because her daughter is allergic to dairy products, Heagy said.

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