INDIANAPOLIS — The number of families who need help putting food on the table is growing across Indiana. Local distribution organizations said more people who have never needed food assistance are now visiting pantries for the first time.

“There is no shame in saying, ‘I’m hurting, my family’s hurting, and we need that help,'” said Erik Barnett, director of Neighbor Services at Gleaners Food Bank.

Lately, the number of people relying on central Indiana food pantries grows month over month. Gleaners said the end of the federal pandemic relief program exacerbated the need.

“There are a lot of folks who have always kind of lived on the edge of that poverty line,” Barnett said. “But then you start seeing prices at the grocery store that spike, and you can’t get everything you need.”

Midwest Food Bank said it fed roughly 1.3 million Hoosiers in 2021 for about $60 million. The team anticipates providing $74 million in 2022.

“If the trajectory holds and all of our agencies that are reporting that 25% increase, by the end of the year we anticipate that we will have assisted 1.6 million individuals and families,” said Marcie Luhigo, executive director.

Luhigo said one of Midwest’s partner agencies told her they served 30 new families this week alone.

“Most of them reported they had never gone to a food pantry before,” Luhigo said.

Midwest added that it’s spending 10% more on food and 41% more on the transportation of that food.

“That is translating to an extra $500 every time we fill up one of our semi trucks,” Luhigo said.

Both Midwest and Gleaners praise their volunteers who help them skirt labor costs. Midwest relies on 800 volunteers each year.

Gleaners said volunteers help keep its distribution facility and mobile sites open.

“In Marion County alone, we’re running at least five mobile pantries a week, and each one can require 20 or so people,” Barnett said.

If you would like more information on volunteering or connecting with Gleaners, visit the website https://www.gleaners.org/. For those interested in reaching out to Midwest Food Bank, visit www.midwestfoodbank.org.