Sep. 23—The percentage of people experiencing food insecurity in West Central Indiana is at 14.2%, the second highest rate in Indiana, and the total of children suffering from it represents the state's third highest number.
But the Catholic Charities Foodbank is combating those numbers at a ferocious pace, Assistant Director Jennifer Tames told those attending a lunchtime information session at the food bank on Thursday.
The new foodbank, now about three years old, boasts twice the space of its previous space but has three times the capacity to hold food, providing efficiency and safety, Tames said.
Catholic Charities is part of the Feeding America Network, a consortium of 60,000 food programs nationwide that combined served 60 million people in 2020.
Feeding America's goal is to reduce food insecurity to a mere 5% by 2030, so much work will have to be done locally.
In this area, Catholic Charities distributed 3.9 million pounds of food in 2021 — the equivalent of 3.2 million meals — including 9,913 sack lunches on weekends and holidays. The Loaves & Fishes Soup Kitchen has served individuals every day for the past 35 years without a pause.
The Ryves Youth Center hosted 456 children between the ages of 5 and 17, providing them with more than 11,000 tutoring sessions and sending them home on weekends with a backpack full of food. The center's Kid's Cafe served 7,976 dinners last year.
Bethany House Emergency Shelter served 40 adults and 19 children last year, 21 of whom were victims of domestic violence and 31 of whom went on to a permanent housing arrangement.
The Christmas Store served 963 children and 648 adults by providing clothing, toys and hygiene products. The Christmas Store hosted an open house Thursday afternoon.
Vigo County Commissioner Brendan Kearns, who has worked with Catholic Charities for the past 10 years, said, "Growing up in a Catholic family, I was aware of them, but when I started getting involved with their outreach to the homeless, that was more of an eye-opener as to what their impact is. When you look at how much food is in this building today, it's a reflection of a serious problem in this community.
"Fortunately, we have a great resource to provide food to people in need," Kearns added. "Catholic Charities has really stepped up their game to provide not just in Vigo County, but surrounding counties. Every time there is a need, they step up."
Kearns touted Catholic Charities' Blue Truck Cavalry, which distributes food to children in rural areas. "Jen and John [Etling, agency director] have an idea of areas in Vigo County that need food. The mobile outreach pantry is a big deal — bringing food to those areas makes a huge difference. That's an example of how they go above and beyond."
David Kronke can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.