Attendance surges at food pantries as the holiday approaches

This time each year, residents who struggle financially are faced with a choice.

Utility bills go up because of the costs of heating a home. They want to buy Christmas gifts for their children. But at a minimum, their families need fed.

Those issues are why area food pantry managers report that November and December are their busiest time of the year. Some begin noticing a holiday increase in October.

The Interchurch Food Pantry in Franklin served more than 100 families on some days in late November and early December, averaging between 85 and 100 families served daily during those months.  The average number of families who come to the pantry daily in other months is between 75 and 85, Interchurch Food Pantry manager Carol Phipps said.

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Holidays are the busiest time of the year for local food pantries, as people’s budgets are stretched more than normal for holiday meals and gifts. Visiting a food pantry is often how families are able to stretch their money this time of the year, Phipps said.

"People are stretching their dollars to the limit this time of year, they are taking every measure they can to stretch those dollars," she said.

More people begin coming to The Refuge in Greenwood in October as they begin thinking about preparing for Thanksgiving. The Refuge offers holiday meals and a Christmas gifting event for families that register ahead of time. However, those families must have visited a food pantry that month to qualify for that help, said Marcie Farley, office coordinator at The Refuge.

People who foresee that they will need help during the holidays begin streaming in to register in October and meet the requirements to get the holiday help they need, she said.

“Some of the clients we only see in October, November and December, because they are seeking extra help for the holidays," Farley said.

Our Lady of the Greenwood Church’s food pantry served about 540 families in November, when an average month would have the pantry serving between 420 and 520 families, said Nancy Kilroy, food pantry coordinator.

The pantry is seeing an influx of clients who had not visited the pantry before and expects to have higher than usual numbers in December too, Kilroy said.

While food pantries are seeing an increase in the amount of people who come and get food, donations around the holidays keep up with the demand, food 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.

“We are lucky that donations increase during that time of the year too," Farley said. "People are more generous around the holidays and for us, it works out."

A trucking company ran a food drive that enabled them to donate about 1,200 pounds of food to the pantry at Our Lady of the Greenwood before Thanksgiving. The church’s parishioners help too, Kilroy said.

The holidays are also a festive time to be at Interchurch as some residents will pass out gift cards to people who are getting help at the pantry, Phipps said.

While receiving donations of canned food items and other perishable goods is always welcome, monetary donations can make a donation go further, Phipps said.

Food pantries often have arrangements with central Indiana food banks, farms and grocery stores to get food at a discount. For example, five dollars of food purchased at a grocery store by a resident would cost the pantry three dollars to purchase, Phipps said.

And while food pantries often have the holidays covered, help is needed year round, she said.

“We really need people to continue to give throughout the year," Phipps said.  "It is a 12-month scramble for us to get by."

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Here is a look at some of the food pantries in the county.

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. Saturdays

Donations: Accepted during hours of operation

Information: 317-736-5090, [email protected]

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: Thursdays: 9:15-9:40 a.m., 12:15-12:40 p.m., 6:15-6:40 p.m.; Saturdays: 9:15-9:40 a.m. 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-Tuesday; 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 9-11 a.m. Saturday.

Information: 317-889-9650

Johnson County Senior Services

Location: 731 S. State St., Franklin

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Lord’s Locker

Location: 101 S. Pleasant St., Trafalgar.

Open: Wednesdays: 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). Thursdays: 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). During all distribution times, 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; 9 a.m. to noon the third Saturday of every month

Information: 317-878-7708

Our Lady of the Greenwood

Location: 335 S. Meridian St.

Open: 11 a. m. to 2 p. m.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.

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

Information: 889-7338

The Salvation Army Food Pantry

Location: 325 Market Plaza, Greenwood

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

Information: 317-881-2505.

For a complete list of food pantries, please see Saturday’s Daily Journal.