Part of the Solution: Local Food Pantries

By Sara Sterley

Food pantries need us now more than ever. I live in Hamilton County, Indiana, one of the twenty-five wealthiest counties in the country, and our food pantries are desperate for food due to the huge increases in the number of middle-class families in need. Our largest local food pantry is providing non-perishable items to over 50 families a day, and families can only receive these food boxes once a month. According to a recent New York Times article, “food bank operators say the numbers of people seeking their services have been sharply up in the last two years, especially among the elderly.” Yesterday’s Kennebec Morning Sentinel reported that one in ten Americans received food stamps in September, more than ever before.

It is vitally important, especially during the current economic times, that we support the food pantries in our community. Often in rural or suburban areas, especially, the food pantries are the only social services available in the immediate community. I live in a suburban area and the working poor support the wealthy lifestyles of us suburbanites. The food pantries in suburban and rural areas are often overlooked. For example, I live in the north-side suburbs of Indianapolis, but most people, when they are contemplating giving food or donations to the hungry in “our” community only think about the large pantries and shelters in downtown Indianapolis. Many local families are struggling, and they depend on local shelters for help, which is why we need to take responsibility for the “least of these” in our own backyards.

Want to be a part of the solution in your community? Try some of these ideas:

  • Check with your food pantry to see what they are most in need of and make a list accordingly. Keep the list with you, and check out the sales on your grocery runs. Keep in mind the benefits of real food.

  • Contact your Representative and Senators. The stimulus bill that was recently passed in the House contains a $20 billion increase to food stamp benefits and a $300 million increase for state food stamp administrative costs. Whether or not you agree with the stimulus bill in theory, the fact is that a stimulus bill of some sort will be passed in the next several weeks. Food stamps are spent quickly and on food items, which will spur the economy and feed families that otherwise may go hungry. Let your Congressmen and women know that substantial spending on these types of programs is a necessary part of whatever stimulus bill that is passed.

  • Start your own neighborhood or office food drive. We have a friend who emailed his subdivision and told everyone that he would be around the second Saturday of every month to pick up any food that they left on their front porch. He gives his neighbors a virtually painless way to take care of those in need in their community. I placed a box in our office break room with some information about our local food pantry and its needs, and my co-workers appreciate having a convenient way to give. A second-grader at our church convinced his teacher to have a food drive among his class members. The school principal was so inspired by the second-grader’s passion for those in need that he made it an all-school event. Get creative and find your own way to drum up awareness and support for your local food pantry!

  • Start a community garden to benefit your local food pantry. If you are a gardener yourself, offer your knowledge and expertise to train families in need to start their own gardens. Teach a man to fish, as they say.
This column is intended be a place where we can come together and share our knowledge - our facts and our experiences - to empower and encourage one another into action. Let’s learn together how we can be a part of the solution in dismantling our world’s unjust systems of oppression. So, if you’ve got something we ought to know, send your facts and story, in 800 words or less, to reviews@burnsidewriterscollective.com.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing! I used to live in Hamilton County, and totally understand how people overlook that area, thinking everyone is well-off there, which is definitely not the case. Giving starts in our hometowns and spreads out from there.

    God bless!

  2. Wow, 1 in 10?? I think it's important to realize that a lot of people on food stamps are just ordinary people like us who because of life circumstances beyond their control ended up needing government assistance. I have a good friend who got so ill she could no longer hold down a job. She lost the job, the medical expenses are piling up, and now she's on food stamps. She's actually a really bright woman, who has several degrees from reputable colleges and would be working hard if it weren't for her health issues. It's hard to imagine her on food stamps but she is, and apparently she's not alone.

  3. Sara, this is a great article...I'll make sure the rest of the Outreach team checks it out!