Love Chapel’s free mobile food pantries this calendar year could see a fourfold increase by September compared to early 2022, according to organizers.
That projection is further evidence that food insecurity in Bartholomew County continues to grow.
Reasons can be traced to factors such as the stress that the COVID-19 pandemic has created with job loss, plus the elimination of enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits that The Republic reported on earlier this month, local leaders say.
The drive-through mobile pantries began the year on a monthly basis, but in March expanded to three times per month at various locales beyond the fixed pantry at 311 Center St. in Columbus, said Kelly Daugherty, executive director of the largest local food outreach. In September, with the planned addition of a mobile pantry somewhere in southwestern Bartholomew County, the number of families served per month would rise from 80 to 105 in February to nearly as many as 400 families before year’s end.
Currently, the outer county mobile pantries in Elizabethtown, Hope, and Taylorsville are serving 275 or more families per month, Daugherty said.
Love Chapel, supported by the Ecumenical Assembly of Bartholomew County Churches plus grants and donations, allows families to access the mobile pantries once per month. The next mobile pantry is scheduled rain or shine Tuesday from 9 to 10:30 a.m., with registration at 8:30 a.m., in the parking lot of Hope Moravian Church, 202 Main St., in Hope. The previous pantry scheduled at Heritage Heights subdivision June 15 in Taylorsville was canceled because of a heat index of 100 degrees or higher, organizers said.
They said such cancellations are to protect both a crew of 12 to 15 volunteers at a pantry site plus residents coming out in the heat.
That cancellation probably will mean that a higher number of families will come to next week’s outreach, Daugherty said.
“We are certainly expecting that, yes,” Daugherty said. “And we shouldn’t have to worry about the heat with this one since this is scheduled in the morning.”
At the pantries, each family gets everything needed to make four complete meals, plus a bag of cooking supplies, a bag of snacks, and some cooking supplies. Like other Love Chapel programs, there is no income guideline for the mobile outreaches. But Daugherty said that northern Bartholomew County residents are currently among those most needing help, according to what little demographic information the nonprofit collects.
Columbus resident John Tinkey said he’s grateful for the mobile pantry he has used in Elizabethtown.
“They have good quality food,” Tinkey said, “and also good quantity.”