July 4, 2008

Be Our Guest / Don Striegel

Community’s generosity helps St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry through critical June shortage

Just a few weeks ago, the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, 3001 E. 30th St., in Indianapolis, was facing a critical shortage of food to be distributed to needy clients, which number more than 2,100 households served per week—yes, each week.

We had plenty of crackers, snacks and bottled drinks, but pantry clients, who choose products that meet their particular nutritional needs and/or personal preferences, did not have the variety and quantity that we hope to provide for each visit.

The pantry’s food procurement team worked vigorously to solicit and purchase food from existing and new sources, but availability was very limited, non-existent or too costly.

It seems that food brokers across the country were buying and reselling products that may have previously been donated to food banks. Thus, local pantries that regularly acquire food from these food banks—for a handling fee—experienced grave shortages.

Leadership at the St. Vincent de Paul Pantry began to develop contingency plans in the event that the food supply did not increase. Some potential actions were to reduce shopping hours or limit the number of items allowed per visit. The pantry’s procurement team was successful in finding additional food sources, but the pricing in many cases was beyond our already stretched budget.

Thankfully, for now, the pantry did not have to activate contingency plans. Recent donations and food drives, such as the postal workers “Help Stamp Out Hunger” collection on May 10, have restocked food banks and pantries.

However, we know from past years that food donations typically do not pick up until September or October so potential shortages still exist. Thus, we cannot be complacent just because shelves are full.

St. Vincent de Paul Pantry officials will continue to redouble their procurement efforts, and hope to provide the same quantity and quality of food and other essentials this summer that clients have come to expect year-round.

In a few weeks, several retail stores will advertise “Christmas in July” sales to offset their typical seasonal decline in customer spending.

At the St. Vincent de Paul Pantry, we are grateful for “Thanksgiving in June” whereby the community responded with donations to help us navigate a difficult period. Thank you for your generosity, and please continue to share your blessings with the less fortunate.

For more information on the charitable works of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in the Indianapolis area, or to make a donation to support the pantry, please go to our Web site at www.SVDPindy.org. Note that we are a 100 percent volunteer organization so every dollar goes to direct aid.

As a faith-based charity, we appreciate your prayers, sacrifices and support of our ministry to those in need.

(Don Striegel is the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry volunteer coordinator.)

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