May 8, 2020

The other front line of the times

Feeding the hungry as unemployment rates soar

By Natalie Hoefer

The numbers are unprecedented. Between March 14 and April 18, the United States Department of Labor announced there were 515,000 new applications for unemployment insurance benefits in Indiana due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Just one week during that time frame saw nearly 75,500 new claims, whereas only 2,700 initial claims were submitted during the comparable week the year prior.

But there are faces behind those numbers. Faces like the father of a middle class family in Seymour who never imagined having to stand in line for food to feed his family.

Faces like one food pantry client in Indianapolis who gave his milk to a woman because “you have a kid and you need it more than me.”

And faces like a woman near Tell City who was furloughed for three weeks before admitting she could no longer afford food.

“The number of people we’ve never seen before is way more than our regulars,” says Deacon John Cord, who serves on the board of faith-based Waymaker Ministries in Seymour. “We told our [volunteers] to plan for 150 meals a night, and we thought we were exaggerating. We had 105 guests the first night, 178 the second and 188 the third.”

The same situation is occurring throughout the archdiocese.

Starting this week, The Criterion will run a three-part series of articles. They will tell the story of just three of the parishes and Catholic organizations in central and southern Indiana that are heeding Christ’s call to feed the hungry as the need reaches staggering proportions due to the pandemic.

This week’s article will focus on the Indianapolis Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Food Pantry, which has seen a nearly 25 percent spike in clients.

The other upcoming articles will look at a new effort supported by Deacon Cord and St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour, and Martin’s Cloak, a ministry in Perry County supported by three parishes.

Along the way, we’ll list other parishes and organizations who have stepped up their efforts to feed the hungry in their communities.

Together they form another contingent of the “front line” of those saving lives, sharing mercy and offering hope during the coronavirus crisis. †

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