Generational poverty, lack of income raise need at food pantries

A food pantry is operated Dec. 7, 2017, by Interchurch Food Pantry of Johnson County in Franklin, Indiana. (WISH Photo)

FRANKLIN, Ind (WISH) — A record number of families are visiting food pantries here in Central Indiana.

Gleaners Food Bank, which provides food for many pantries, has seen a sharp increase. A representative from Gleaners said they met with several pantry “partners” on Wednesday. All pantries reported an increase this year. Gleaners saw a more than 30 percent increase over the past three weeks.

A food pantry isn’t where David Ferguson envisioned his retirement from Cummins would lead him. “I don’t make a lot of money. I need help with food.”

Shane Phillips and his wife both work full time, but with six kids, it’s not enough. “My wife goes through a lot of medical problems. She’s had surgeries, life or death surgeries.”

Ferguson and Phillips have vastly different stories. But, the outcome is still the same. Both rely on Interchurch Food Pantry of Johnson County. They’re not alone. According to pantry manager, Carol Phipps, they served more people in 2017 than any other year since the pantry has been open. Interchurch opened 33 years ago.

Phipps said they’ve seen almost 20 percent more families this year compared to last. in the week of Thanksgiving, they averaged more than 100 families per day compared to the usual 80-90 families. The increase is despite a declining unemployment rate, which is 3 percent for Johnson County and 4.1 percent nationally.

“There are many families out there that are not benefiting from that,” Phipps said.

Retired people are one example. Phipps said she’s seen a steady flow of people on fixed incomes, particularly senior citizens.

“We’re seeing generational poverty that is having a hard time benefiting from the increases,” she said.

Phipps added that they’re also seeing a number of people with full-time jobs, even multiple jobs, but their income falls short. “That’s a phenomena that we’re also seeing. People that are really trying to make ends meet, and they can’t.”

Although Phillips wallet may not be full, he’s still grateful … that, at least, his cart is. “It’s a blessing to us. It’s God way. It’s helping people to survive in here.”

Interchurch Food Pantry is always looking for volunteers and donations.