Demand sparks plans for growth

McCORDSVILLE — A local food pantry is garnering support from area churches in hopes of keeping up with increasing need from Vernon Township residents.

Since opening its doors in 2005, Angel Connection Food Pantry has fed thousands of hungry people, said Donna Foster, who runs the McCordsville-based nonprofit. But in recent years, the pantry has steadily increased the average number of clients it serves monthly — from fewer than 50 per month in the first year to more than 150 in recent years.

To set the groundwork for expanding the pantry’s capabilities, representatives from five churches in the area have agreed to form a coalition to collect donations — both monetary and supplies — to support the operation.

Churches also will work together to plan for future growth. The pantry is currently open twice a month; with additional support, its hours could expand to feed more families, leaders say.

In the next year, Foster hopes to be able to support an additional 70-plus people who come to the pantry at 7739 N. County Road 600W, which sometimes sees as many as 200 clients a month, depending on the season, she said.

Food pantries often see a spike in demand during summer and winter months, Foster said. When school lets out for the summer, parents come to the pantry for help feeding their children, who had received free or reduced-price lunches at school. In the winter, utility payments increase for many families, making it harder for them to put food on the table.

Since 2012, the number of Vernon Township residents who were referred to food assistance programs quadrupled, from 1,011 to nearly 4,500 in 2015, according to data collected by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.

Jim Nolte, Vernon Township trustee, sees the need on a regular basis.

Nolte maintains a small food pantry out of the trustee office in Fortville, but he often doesn’t have everything residents need, he said.

In those cases, Nolte refers residents to organizations like Foster’s, which seek to fill in the gaps.

Roger Howard, one of several volunteers from Christ Presbyterian Church in McCordsville, has agreed to help the pantry manage its expansion.

In February, the church raised more than $1,000 for Angel Connection through Souper Bowl — a playful food fundraiser themed around the Super Bowl matchup, Howard said.

Representatives from Geist Chapel, Geist Community, Living Streams and Outlook Christian churches also have agreed to assist the organization.

“Just think what we’ll be able to accomplish as a group,” Howard said.

Representatives from the five organizations will act as a steering committee to help guide Foster and other volunteers through gradual expansion, Foster said.

In coming weeks, the group will decide what needs to be done to expand, whether establishing Saturday hours for more residents to stop in or increasing refrigeration and freezer facilities to store perishable food, like produce, which is always in high demand, Foster said.

Angel Connection is open between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. The next upcoming date is April 13.

At a glance

Angel Connection, 7739 N. County Road 600W in McCordsville, is open between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. The next upcoming date is April 13.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.