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NEWS reports about this community’s remarkable economic resurgence during a time when many other communities in this state and across the nation are struggling with their recoveries from the 2008 recession are somewhat misleading.
While the Columbus area has been among state and national leaders in job creation, deep pockets of poverty still exist within its boundaries.
That was illustrated in a recent story about the plight of food banks in Bartholomew County, many of which are struggling to meet the needs of a significant, low-income population that depends on them for daily sustenance. Two of the pantries that provide assistance to Bartholomew County’s disadvantaged population — Love Chapel and The Salvation Army — have reported dramatic increases in their clientele in the past year. Love Chapel, which provided assistance to about 1,000 households, saw its rolls increase by more than 200 over the same period last year. Officials with The Salvation Army reported an increase of 50 percent in demand.
A major factor in the increase of households served was the closing last year of the food pantry operated by Human Services Inc. That facility provided assistance to 400 to 500 families each month.
Regardless of the mitigating circumstances, poverty remains a major issue in this community, one that has put enormous pressure on providers of assistance, such as the existing food pantries.
It is imperative this situation not be ignored or trivialized by simplistic approaches that overlook the harsh realities of life for the disadvantaged.
As noted in the Dec. 16 story about the demands faced by the local food pantries, clients are forced into situations sometimes beyond their control. One told a reporter for The Republic he had contracted the MRSA bacteria and was unable to return to his job at a local towing service. Another pointed out she had been laid off from a part-time job in North Vernon.
Some even noted they and their families sometimes skipped meals because there was no food in the house.
The numbers reported by the county’s food pantries should really not be a surprise. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. officials report that about 50 percent of the children in the district’s schools qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch program.
The community has a responsibility to assist these food pantry organizations in keeping their shelves stocked. Although their needs become more pronounced and public at holiday time, their mission is a year-round effort.
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