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After limited start, Ellettsville food pantry is feeding thousands

As the number of food-insecure families rise, food pantry donations are going down. That's why Pantry 279 is asking for the public's help.

ELLETTSVILLE, Ind. — Cindy Chavez and her Girl Scouts started Pantry 279 a few years ago with a noble mission.

"We were started by my Girl Scout troop in order to help feed their friends who were having some problems financially," says Chavez, Pantry 279 director.

Since then, Pantry 279, which is housed in a back room of a church, has grown significantly.

"We started out opening with five families, which was 25 people," Chavez said. "We figured that honestly, within about a month or so, we'd feed 35 families. By the second week, we were feeding 75 a day. The first month, we fed 600, and the second month, we fed 1,200."

Fast forward to today, where Cindy says the number of people they feed just continues to rise.

"Pre-COVID, we were about to about 3,500 [people] a month. Now, we're up to 6,500 a month," she said.

Thanksgiving is less than a week away and, because of COVID-19, the number of food-insecure families is rising, while the number of donations is going down.

"Last year, we handed out 1,200 Thanksgiving boxes, which feeds about 9,000 people," said Chavez. "This year, with COVID, it's actually looking like we may end up doing more like 2,400 or 2,000 boxes, which will feed between 16,000 and 19,000 people."

Pantry 279 needs your help to meet the demand. You can donate on their website, or on Venmo (@Pantry279) or PayPal (Pantry279@yahoo.com).

And Chavez wants to be clear: Don't let this deter you from reaching out to a pantry if you need help.

"About 50 percent of the people that are coming between now and last March are new people that have never used a pantry before," she said. "They're very embarrassed, and they kind of apologize a lot. Don't worry about it. This is COVID. I mean, everything is up on the air. Never worry about going to a food pantry. That's why we're here."

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