Changing face of hunger in Indiana
Chances are, you enjoyed a big Thanksgiving meal today. But there are a lot of Hoosiers who aren't so lucky.
The Indy Hunger Network estimates more than 300,000 people in central and southeast Indiana don't know where their next meal is coming from, and that number continues to grow.
Food pantries are especially busy during the holidays, with volunteers stocking shelves.
"They like chili," said a volunteer at a Fishers pantry.
The need for help is greater than ever for the 350 or so families who get a full week's worth of meals here once a month.
"We started before the recession, and now have more and more that have a need," said Linda Williams, the pantry's director.
What might surprise you is that this food pantry - at the Fishers United Methodist Church -serves Hamilton County, the most prosperous county in the state.
"Hamilton County is like every other county," Williams explained. "There are always poor people and people who've lost jobs, and they're not used to living this way."
"I thought it was for poor people who had really horrible luck," said Jennifer Kennard of Noblesville. "And lo and behold, I have horrible luck and I'm one of those poor people."
Kannard began coming to the pantry after getting divorced a year ago. She has two children and a grandchild at home.
"It's been a blessing," she said. "It's helped me subsidize the food budget to where I'm able to provide better meals than I would have been."
Jennifer, who has a college degree and teaches part-time, doesn't seem to fit the stereotype.
"I think people don't see other people's troubles," Kannard said. "Maybe they don't know, they're divorced or have had job changes."
Williams said at this food pantry, Jennifer isn't the exception. She's the norm. "They may have some assistance or may be working and have enough for a few meals, but not enough to make it a whole month."
Kennard said it wasn't easy coming to the pantry for the first time. "But you have to humble yourself and do what you need to do to help the family, so this is where I am."
Like many others who depend on this food pantry, she's thankful she has a place to turn.