INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers have doubled the amount of funding they provide to some food banks.
Over the past year, demand hasn’t slowed down at Indiana’s food banks.
“I hate the term ‘new normal,’ but I think drive-thru may be our new normal,” said Sarah Estell of Gleaners Food Bank, which launched drive-thru distributions after the pandemic started.
The volunteers at Gleaners serve at least 750 households a day, Estell said. That’s as many as they saw during the 2020 pandemic shutdowns, she added, and double the pre-pandemic daily average number of visitors.
The end of federal COVID-related assistance programs has been a factor driving more families to seek help, Estell said.
“When Indiana ended the enhanced SNAP benefits last summer, an immediate spike, 58% in a month,” she said.
Food banks across the state are seeing the same demand, according to Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry.
“We saw an increase in clients, we saw still a decrease in donated product, whether from manufacturers or retail, and we’ve seen a decrease in the federal commodity food that our members distribute,” Weikert Bryant said.
Weikert Bryant and her organization successfully persuaded the Statehouse to provide more support.
Currently, the state contributes $1 million per year to Feeding America’s 11 food banks that serve Hoosiers. That jumps to $2 million annually under the next budget.
It’s a big help amid a rise in visitors and food prices, Weikert Bryant said.
“We also spent $15 million in food purchase last year, which is something that has risen exponentially in the last few years,” she said.
Gleaners does not expect the demand to decline anytime soon, so any help is greatly appreciated, Estell said.
“We always need volunteers or find other ways to support, get involved with your local food bank or your local food coalitions,” Estell said.
The additional funding will become available after the new state budget takes effect July 1.