INDIANAPOLIS - New numbers released Monday have redefined the face of hunger in central Indiana and identified a record-breaking need.
The Hunger in America study is done once every four years by Feeding America, but this was the most comprehensive study they’ve done to date.
The study broke down the numbers concerning families who rely on charity food assistance.
The study shows that in the 21 central and southern Indiana counties that Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana serves, one in eight people receive assistance from a food bank to make ends meet. That is more than 260,000 people -- 97,000 of them children and 31,000 elderly who often have to choose between food and medicine.
Cary Abrell works at Gleaners' warehouse. He used to volunteer at the food bank, but before that, the single father of two was a hesitant recipient when he was in between jobs for a few months last Christmas.
"It took me a while to finally suck up the pride and come in. But once I did, when I came in, it wasn't like I came to a food bank; it was like I basically went to a store. They were just nice and polite," Abrell said. "It's the reason I work here. They helped me out. So I believe in the cause and decided that this is where I wanted to work."
Abrell already knows what the new numbers released Monday confirm -- that the face of hunger in central Indiana is changing. Of the one in eight Hoosiers who need Gleaners' services, many have jobs.
"The face of hunger is so different than we all think. It’s grandparents raising grandchildren, it's soldiers returning home from their service to our country, it's students. It's a single mom struggling to make ends meet. People working two and three jobs will have to decide whether to pay the rent, the utilities, put gas in the car or to buy food," said Gleaners president and CEO Cindy Hubert.
"You know, so many of the new jobs that the state has gained have been in the lower-wage service sector. We've lost a lot of good-paying jobs during the great recession and we simply aren't back to where we need to be to ensure that families have enough food on their tables," Director of Foundation Relations Robert Wilson said.
The food distribution at Gleaners has doubled over the past four years, yet the need is higher than ever.
Gleaners officials hope the new study will encourage more people to donate food items or donate their time to help.