HANCOCK COUNTY — When cans of corn and green beans come in, they’re lined up in stacks, a row of two-can stacks that’s several cans deep on the shelf.
There are often oodles of corn, green beans and peas at the Angel Connection Food Pantry, 7739 N. County Road 600W, McCordsville. But bottles of juice, cans of ravioli — those are hard to find.
Make no mistake: local food pantries are grateful for donations received, but they also want to spread the word about little-offered items that could benefit local families in need.
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“We will take anything people donate,” Foster said. But when the Daily Reporter asked about what comes in and what they need, pantry volunteers didn’t have to think long about the answers.
“Meat or fruit are usually high on the list,” said Lora Kay Wedgeworth of the Fortville United Methodist Church food pantry, which operates out of the basement of a building at 115 N. Main St., Fortville, next door to the church.
The pantry is open to Hancock County residents from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, and the number of visitors ranges from 15 to 25 in the summer to 45 to 60 during the holiday season, Wedgeworth said. Most who come are older single adults.
Items there are grouped into categories for selection: a meat choice (such as canned chicken, tuna or beef stew), a fruit choice, and three vegetables such as corn or green beans. There’s also a miscellaneous table, where food recipients can choose four or five items such as cereal, crackers, ketchup or mustard.
Condiments also are sought after at McCordsville’s Angel Connection, Foster said. Ketchup, mustard and salad dressing are items not as frequently donated but are “another thing we are constantly buying,” she said.
Shirley-Wilkinson Community United Methodist Church operates a pantry in the basement of the church at 309 South St. in Shirley. Linda Westrich said it can use boxed items such as cereal, macaroni and cheese and potatoes; canned vegetables, meat and fruit; and toilet paper and paper towels.
While Debbie Bruce was office manager at Brandywine Community Church in Greenfield, she began sending emails to a mailing list of interested members with the current needs of the church’s Ruth’s Harvest Food Pantry. It’s a practice current office manager Cheyanne Petry has continued.
“Protein-based items were always the most scarce — items like peanut butter, tuna, canned chicken or ham,” Bruce, now a Florida resident, wrote in an email. “These do cost more but are so helpful in pulling a meal together. Soup, vegetables and boxed mac and cheese were the most popular but didn’t usually sit on the shelf very long.
“It was wonderful when you could put a couple of bags together that fed folks all day: cereal, pancake mix, oatmeal; peanut butter, soup; protein, spaghetti and sauce, taco fixings, vegetables, side dish … fruit, applesauce.”
Thinking about protein and what would group into a meal is helping in providing food donations that will help a hungry person feel full and also deliver needed nutrients, said Sara Hardin, a registered dietitian at Hancock Regional Hospital.
Beans provided protein and fiber and are versatile, she said; they can be part of a soup or pureed and stirred into chili or taco meat. She recommends actual juices over juice-like drinks in punches or pouches. Nuts, nut butters, oats and whole-grain pasta are good choices, she added, and canned tomato juice can be a drink or a base for chili.
Hardin said some people lament canned vegetables not being as healthy as fresh ones, but too often she finds people then just don’t eat vegetables at all. She said the canned version is better than nothing, and nearly 40 percent of the sodium can be removed if one rinses and drains them thoroughly. “It comes down to using what you have,” she said.
Karla Whisenand, executive director of Love INC, suggests pantries offer simple recipes and crockpot ideas to food recipients. “Many won’t take the fresh produce, and that is a shame,” she wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. She also said students in cooking classes the Christian clearinghouse ministry has offered indicate they would like to receive more meat. Love INC refers callers to local pantries each week, she wrote, and she commends their work.
Churches, youth clubs and other organizations often help keep local pantries stocked. Several churches work together to donate items for Angel Connection, and it recently received a $1,000 grant from Hancock County Community Foundation. Fortville-Vernon Township Public Library has a box out for donations to the Fortville United Methodist pantry, and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post will occasionally give the church a check for the pantry.
Some churches gather food for Hancock County Food Pantry. Mohawk United Methodist Church, for example, collects a certain type of item one Sunday a month. On Sunday (Nov. 5), for example, church members brought canned proteins such as beans, tuna and chicken.
Leslie Dalton, chairman of the church’s Missions Team, chooses the rotation of items based on a list posted on the pantry’s website.
“I thought it would be easier to list one item a month, rather than just ‘bring something for the food pantry,’” Dalton wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.
The needs churches seek to meet stretch beyond nutrition. The Fortville pantry offers gently used coats annually; sometimes a group will gather hats and gloves for it to distribute. Sometimes the Mohawk donations to the county pantry are paper products.
Foster said Angel Connection also tries to stock toilet paper and personal items. “People cannot buy any personal care items with food stamps,” she said. So the pantry gathers shampoo, body wash and laundry detergent.
Still other times, the gift of presence is the biggest one the faith-based pantry offers, she said.
“Some just need to talk and need a hug.”
Area churches either house or support these local pantries.
-Angel Connection, 7739 N. County Road 600W, Mccordsville
open 9-10 a.m. second and fourth Wednesday
-Fortville United Methodist Church Pantry, 115 N. Main St. (basement), Fortville
open 1-3 p.m. Tuesdays
-Groceries of Grace food pantry at Cross of Grace Lutheran Church
3519 S. County Road 600W, New Palestine
-Hancock County Food Pantry, 741½ S. State St., Greenfield
-Ruth’s Harvest food pantry at Brandywine Community Church, 1551 W. New Road, Greenfield
-Shirley United Methodist Church pantry
309 South St., Shirley
call 765-738-6732 to arrange donations
open 7 to 8 p.m. third Tuesday of month
Know of another church food pantry in Hancock County? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to share current needs and the hours for donating and receiving food.