INDIANAPOLIS — Food insecurity continues to be a concern for city leaders. A recent study shows around 25% of Marion County residents have trouble putting food on the table for their family.

On Tuesday, Mayor Joe Hogsett visited the Indy Vineyard Church Food Pantry to help highlight the continuing need, especially after the holidays. Beyond actual food, leaders are pushing to expand how people look at food insecurity with more focus on root causes.

“Often times, you see individuals who are struggling with not only food security issues, but unemployment, lack of transportation, and sometimes mental health challenge,” said Mayor Hogsett. “It really is a holistic effort not just, focused on food, but it is a holistic effort to empower more people to live better lives.”

This time of year is one of the most challenging for the food insecure population. The Missional Food Pantry Network says they serve 5,000 people a month. The pantries are always in need of financial assistance and food donations, especially to provide for those with different dietary or cultural needs.

“It’s not a one size fits all issue, food security it looks different for every family and this is a perfect example of how individual families and individual needs can be met through support of program like this,” said Milele Kennedy, director of community and food policy for the Office of Public Health and Safety.

Merlin Gonzales, president, CEO, and director of Faith, Hope and Love Community says while food is a major part of the solution for food insecurity, it is not all of it.

“If we can actually identify the other things that are actually contributing to food insecurity I think that we can be a model. A model city in transforming food pantries to become more missional in engaging the community and help one another throughout the nation,” said Gonzalez.

At the same time, food pantries continue to struggle with a lack of volunteers due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Gleaners Food Bank says the omicron surge is not only keeping volunteers away, it is forcing many more people to stay home and keeping them from shopping for food.

To help these struggling food pantries, the city awarded $100,000 to community organizations working to connect Indy residents with long-term food and nutrition resources. Faith, Hope and Love got $10,000 from the Indy Food Fund.

This funding is part of Mayor Hogsett’s urban food plan to connect organizations working to tackle food access and food security issues. Over the next three years, the city will dedicate $6 million in food programming through the American Rescue Plan Act.