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INDIANAPOLIS — A new study from the Indy Hunger Network (IHN) shows food insecurities in Marion County are improving, but the county is still not back to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, roughly a quarter of the people living in the county are having trouble putting food on the table for their family.

“Many of the folks that are facing food insecurity in the city have kids at home, and we want those kids to grow healthy with the same foods we would want to eat every night,” said Kate Howe, executive director of IHN.

Even more troubling is that 61% of those who reported troubles say they have a family member suffering from a chronic disease related to their food insecurities. There are 190 food pantries in the county, and IHN says the problem isn’t as much supply of food, but access. The pandemic has made it harder for some people to get to pantries, or to shop inside those locations for what they need. This includes fresh produce. Roughly 22% of the families they spoke with say they rarely eat a healthy meal.

“It could be whatever they are able to get at the closest gas station if they don’t have transportation or access,” detailed Howe.

As they search for a permanent location, No Questions Asked Food Pantry has begun putting up mobile food sites in neighborhoods in need. They currently have one at the East 38th Street Library.

“We knew we wanted to be connected with them because of the high needs in this area,” explained Jessica Louise, a community outreach volunteer for No Questions Asked Food Pantry. “Currently we are doing weekly drops. There is no ID needed, and it is all you can carry. Right now we have heard from several spots looking to do what the library has done.”

The research conducted by IHN shows that Black families in the city have twice the rate of food insecurity compared to the general population. Louise has been seeing this need happening as well.

“We know from experience, and especially living on the far east side, that nutritional, valuable food options are scarce,” detailed Louise. “There’s a deep neglect within the communities, and even though that neglect is presenting itself in a myriad of ways, it’s not something that is front and center for people. We need to make sure that when residents are able to get this produce and food home that they have safe and adequate housing to prepare their food.”

Thanks to donations from Indy10 and No Questions Asked, the pantry was able to recently donate $5,000 to organizations inside food apartheid areas.

“We are doing gift cards now. We encourage people to match for a December gift to other organizations who are in food apartheids,” added Louise.

IHN urges people do donate what they can to a local pantry during the holidays, and that includes produce.

“I think you have to listen to what residents needs are. Think about when residents present themselves as being hungry, when their children present themselves as being hungry, we need to listen to them,” says Louise.