By Emma Uber
As the new coronavirus shutters business and schools nationwide, local Carmel food pantries remain open to meet the increased needs of the community.
Merciful Help Center Executive Director Jayne Slaton saidfood pantries have experienced a significant increase in demand because of the financial impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on many families.
“We’re having people come (to the Merciful Help Center) who are not characteristically in need, with all the servers and all these people being laid off,” Slaton said. “They are not able to make their rent, so food will become substantially more important and it already is.”
Slaton is determined to serve every family that relies on the Merciful Help Center.
“(Coronavirus) is affecting us a great deal. We’re very busy. We’re not saying no to anybody. We’re letting everybody come through because if you need the help, we’re willing to give it,” Slaton said.
To meet the unprecedented demand, food pantries are counting on monetary or food donations more than ever.
“We really need food donations. We are also partners with Gleaners Food Bank, and one dollar at the grocery store is equal to 10 cents cost at Gleaner’s, meaning we can get so much more at Gleaners,” Slaton said. “Cash donations help us a lot.”
Natalie Oehler, co-director of the food pantry at Carmel United Methodist Church, said although the circumstances aremore demanding, the mission of the food pantry remains the same.
“We are here to help our neighbors,” Oehler said. “Hunger is a scary thing, especially with this shutdown.”
Just as the community depends on charitable organizations in times of crisis, charities rely on community contributions.
“People have really stepped up. I am so thoroughly impressed with this community. I already knew it was a beautiful community to live in, because I’ve been doing this for 31 years, but this is so far above and beyond,” Slaton said.
The Merciful Help Center is at 1045 W. 146th St. It is accepting donations such as canned food, cereal, baby wipes, toilet paper, tissues, shampoo and toothbrushes. Volunteer opportunities can be found at mercifulhelpcenter.org/volunteer-food-pantry.
The Food Pantry at Carmel United Methodist Church is at 621 S. Range Line Rd. and is accepting donations of tuna,Ramen Noodles, cereal, jelly, rice, canned and dry goods at their 24-hour drop-off donation station.
Other food pantries in Carmel are Bread of Life Pantry at Venture Christian Church, 14501 Hazel Dell Pkwy. (openWednesdays 5 to 5:30 p.m. and first and third Saturdays of the month 10 a.m. to noon), and at Carmel Friends Church, 651 W. Main St. (open Wednesdays 9 to 11:30 a.m.).
City donates $25K to food pantries
The City of Carmel donated a total of $25,000 to four local food pantries, which are experiencing rising demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The donation comes from funds in the city budget designated to support local initiatives that provide vital services to people in need. For more information on volunteering at the food banks or requesting food, email firstname.lastname@example.org.