GREENFIELD — Tammy Reilly comes to the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen for two reasons. One day last week, she visited to pick up food for clients with developmental disabilities she works with as a home aide. She also was picking up food for members of her own family.
The pandemic, Reilly said, has been hard on her clients, who have been advised not to leave their homes, as well as on her daughter, who is pregnant and not working.
“Times are hard, you know?” Reilly said. “It’s just real sad. But the soup kitchen is wonderful.”
Community resources like the soup kitchen help deal with what a survey by the Indiana Family and Social Services administration recently found is the biggest unmet social need among people seeking public assistance in the state: food insecurity.
Story continues below gallery
Click here to purchase photos from this gallery
That was a surprise to FSSA employees, agency secretary Dr. Jennifer Sullivan said; they often hear about the low availability of transportation from the people they serve and were expecting that to be the greatest unmet need. However, the need for food surpassed everything else in most areas of the state, including Hancock County, the survey showed.
“Food insecurity is a really big deal, and it’s not talked about nearly as much as we would expect,” Sullivan said.
The agency used survey results to create the Hoosier Health and Well-Being Atlas, an interactive map that shows the greatest needs among applicants for state health coverage, food assistance or cash assistance. More than 300,000 households have responded so far.
Of those, 145,032, or nearly 47%, said they ate less than they should have because they lacked enough money for food in the previous 12 months. In Hancock County, 1,990 assessments have been completed. Approximately 52% of respondents — 1,044 — said they did not have enough money for food.
The data was collected starting in 2018 and is continuing.
The data can be used for a variety of purposes, Sullivan said, but its chief purpose is to help identify the areas where communities need the most help so programs can target them specifically.
Jill Ebbert, director of the soup kitchen, said food insecurity is widespread.
“It’s spread out all throughout the age groups,” Ebbert said. “We’ve got young ones, we’ve got old ones, we’ve got in-betweens. I can’t really say that there is one specific demographic that outnumbers the rest.”
Ebbert said many people who visit the soup kitchen are employed.
“Even the people that have jobs, it’s not enough that they can pay their rent and pay their car payment and put their kids in school and pay all their utilities and still have enough for food. I think that is probably the biggest thing, is just that the paychecks don’t go far enough.”
Tom Ferguson, president of the Hancock County Food Pantry, said his organization does not ask for information from its clients about things like whether they’re receiving…