Demand picking up for help with basic needs

·4 min read

Jun. 6—The lines at the last Feed My Sheep food distribution were a lot longer. Rising prices for virtually everything and cuts in food stamp benefits have doubled the number of people seeking help.

"We had over 200 and something on Saturday, that's almost double what we were seeing in February," said Feed My Sheep Manager Sandra Rice. "We are getting more and more people. Gas prices have gone up and food stamps have returned to their normal benefit. They are not getting the extra money they received before COVID benefits."

During the COVID outbreak, families received increases in the benefits. A few of those benefit increases remain, but when the state of emergency ended in Indiana, benefits began to drop on average by $80 per family.

Officials with the Women Infants and Children (WIC) say they are not making cuts, but are still hearing from families seeking more help for food.

"We have had no cuts, but actually an increase in the fruit and vegetables we can provide our clients. That came from a grant we received," said Kaitlynn Kessinger, a clinical dietitian with WIC. "We've had some more families that wanted to sign up for WIC and we have had some ask if there are any food services in the area that could help them."

Not only are families receiving less money, the support that food pantries are getting from the USDA is also dropping.

"The USDA food amounts are going down," said Rice. "The last two months I received 17 cases of meat from USDA. We used to get two skids of meat. We are cutting back on the meat we distribute."

Rice says while the amount of meat that is available is dropping, the Feed My Sheep pantry appears to be staying pretty full of other items.

"We are doing well on vegetables and soups. I can get my hands on that stuff," she said. "We are still getting stuff from Walmart and JayC but as far as the government subsidy stuff, they are cutting way back."

Around the country there are reports of a shortage of pasta. That is not a problem at Feed My Sheep.

"We have plenty of pasta right now," said Rice. "When I can get it, I get as much as I can. I know I have not been able to get much pasta lately but back in November and December, I ordered pasta because I was afraid this would happen."

Besides the normal distributions on the third Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and the following Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Feed My Sheep also offers fresh fruits and vegetables at 1 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.

"If people want to donate meat, we will take it," said Rice. "Canned goods we are doing really well on right now. We could probably use more dry goods stuff."

While Feed My Sheep is seeing a big jump in the number of people seeking help, that is not the case everywhere.

Daviess County 211 Executive Director Sherry Davis says the bigger need she is seeing now is rent assistance.

"People are just hardly able to make ends meet at all," said Davis. "We have a lot of people who come down to rent or utilities and utilities are cheaper. We have had some requests for food but not a whole lot. We also have two churches that hand out food, Antioch and First Baptist."

Officials with the First Baptist Church Food Pantry say they are seeing no increase.

"We are not hardly seeing any change," said Pastor Tim Baxter. "It hasn't been any different. No change in the number or anything. We're doing good donation wise. Getting food has been a bit of a problem. Some of the stores that are regular donors have not been putting as much in or we have to wait. Number-wise though, it hasn't been extravagant."

But both operations say that with rising prices and falling benefits there could be some challenges ahead.

"Right now, we are doing OK," said Baxter. "But with the prices and everything there is a concern."

"We are doing all right, but I can see it getting worse. There is that possibility," added Rice. "No matter what, we will do our best to keep people with food."