Food insecurity is growing even as economy opens back up, jobs return

Jobs are starting to return, but the need for food pantries is increasing. Over the past month, Community Harvest Food Bank has seen a 25% increase in the number of people served, and their community partners have seen an increase as well.

Posted: Sep 15, 2020 8:13 PM
Updated: Sep 16, 2020 8:36 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - Times have been tough on people and the question of where the next meal is coming from is on the mind of more people than ever.

For Tim Mares, his disability, along with life events, have forced him to use the Community Harvest Food Bank for the first time.

Mares says, "It saves me a lot because, you know? I’ve just been going through a lot and there’s no way I can, basically, do it on my own because I’m disabled and everything."

Just at their Saturday distributions, Community Harvest has seen a 25% increase in how many families are seeking help in the last month. The amount of food given out has increased from 90,000 to 115,000 pounds.

Community Harvest Executive President Carmen Cumberland says once more evictions start happening, she expects those numbers to climb even higher.

"What if they lose their housing or they need to utilize the only funds they have for that? They need to come here for food assistance and again, we’re here to help, but I see those numbers trending upward," Cumberland explained.

The Pantry at Purdue Fort Wayne is one of Community Harvest’s community partners.

They’ve seen their numbers increase as well. Health and Wellness Director Eric Manor says COVID-19 has forced them to open another pantry on campus.

"We opened the second pantry at student housing in the clubhouse and that was in direct response to COVID, and we’ve opened that and we allow students only in that location, unlike our Walb location where it’s students, community, faculty and staff here," Manor said.

For Mares, he has to shuffle money around to cover other things, so he says he’s grateful for the food pantries in our area, saying "If I knew, I’d probably say it’s saving me a lot."

Both Cumberland and Manor say they could always use more food donations, especially shelf-stable foods.

However, Cumberland is asking for help from the community in a different way.

Starting Oct. 1, Community Harvest will no longer have the help of the Indiana National Guard to help distribute the nearly 2,000,000 pounds of food they distribute weekly throughout their pantries and community partners.

So, Cumberland is asking people in the community to step up and volunteer once they leave.

"We are distributing massive amounts of food and we need people to come in and volunteer, especially when we lose the Guard," Cumberland said. "It is so critical for us as a community to help our neighbors."

To learn how to become a volunteer at Community Harvest, click here.

Community Harvest is open during the following times:

Monday-Friday: 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. - noon
Sunday: Closed

The Pantry at Purdue Fort Wayne's Walb Student Union food pantry is open to anyone, not just PFW affiliated persons during the following times:

Thursdays: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

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