More Indiana families living in poverty, going hungry

One-in-five Indianapolis residents are living in poverty.
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Behind the city's sparking skyline and a national reputation for hosting stellar events, there are new numbers that put Indianapolis in a much different light.

Census figures just released find one-in-five people living in poverty. That's about twice as many as 12 years ago and well above the national average.

It's even more disturbing when you look at who those people are. A crowd waited outside the St. Vincent de Paul Society Food Pantry Tuesday. The waiting room is crammed with people, standing room only, and the aisles were packed with people picking up food.

Kelsey Conder was one of those shoppers. She says she's doing "all right," but only because she and her four-year-old son Malachi dodged a crisis.

"If it weren't for places like this, I wouldn't get food until Friday," she said.

An alarming number of Indianapolis families are in the same situation.

The food pantry feeds about 3,100 families a week and gives away five-and-a-half-million pounds of groceries a year. That's almost twice as much as five years ago.

New census figures show 21.5 percent of residents are now living in poverty. The national average is less than 16 percent.

The plight of single moms is much worse - 45 percent are poverty-stricken.

Kelsey is 19, a working single mom with a high school diploma, struggling to pay for rent, transportation, child care and food. Every day is a challenge.

"Get up in the morning and go to work," she said. "And you know at the end of the week you are still going to be broke. And that's what it is for me."

Twenty precious purchase points allowed her stock up on vegetables and fruit, meat, cereal, bread, turnips and dessert. It was just too tempting for just two points.

"For two cakes, that's a pretty good deal," Kelsey said, smiling almost as much as her son.

Dessert is a distraction from what Kelsey calls "bill brain" - a constant a side effect of poverty.

"I'm always writing it down trying to figure out what money is going where and how much we are going to have and not going to have," she explained.

And at the end of the week?

"It's almost negative numbers," she said.

But Kelsey is remarkably positive, hopeful things will eventually get better for her and Malachi.

Statistics for this story were provided by SAVI/Polis Center at IUPUI.