You might read homelessness statistics for the Evansville area or you might see a news report about low income people struggling to make ends meet. It’s a different thing, however, to meet people on a daily basis and to learn that they are, in fact, homeless. It’s a different thing to carry on a conversation with someone and learn, in passing, that that person is finding shelter in an abandoned house. It’s a different thing to think of homelessness and reflect on someone whose face you can picture and whose story you’ve actually heard. Patchwork provides important opportunities for people to come together and to learn these kinds of lessons from one another.
Patchwork’s food pantry serves a wide variety of people—from single individuals to large families, from retirees to families with young children, from people who have recently lost their job to people who are chronically homeless.
“It was a surprise to me to find out the number of homeless people who come here,” said Karen, one of Patchwork’s newest food pantry volunteers. “And the age of the food pantry clients—younger people, and lots of one person households. That was a surprise. I thought it would be a lot of families, but most are individual men. I would not have guessed that.”
Karen, Dee, and Carl are our Tuesday food pantry volunteers. Karen has only been volunteering for a few months, Dee for about a year, and Carl for a few years. In addition to helping fill food orders, Karen and Dee regularly bring home baked snacks to serve during Patchwork’s Neighborhood Hospitality time.
“Everyone is always very grateful, both the people here for the food pantry and the ones here for hospitality,” said Dee. “They tell us, ‘This is what keeps us alive. It fills you up,’ as they pick up the bread and produce that are out for people to take if they need it.”
“I was also surprised at how many requests we have for toilet paper and pet food,” said Karen. It sounds like an odd combination, but they are two very helpful items offered in Patchwork’s food pantry and not many other places.
“In volunteering here, I’ve also seen how churches and businesses’ support for the food pantry makes a difference,” said Dee. “If we didn’t have the outside support, we wouldn’t have enough.” It’s true. While we get over 90% of our food pantry’s food from Tri-State Food Bank, food donations from area organizations help fill critical gaps created when the Food Bank is unable to supply certain items on our standard food list.
We’re grateful for all our food pantry volunteers and the people who donate food to keep our food pantry well stocked. Thanks to them, we’re ready for whomever may come our way looking for a little help in stretching their resources and staying fed.
Last year, our food pantry served 2636 individuals from 1487 households by distributing over 29 tons of food. The Pantry is open Monday-Thursday mornings and is one of seven that make up Evansville’s Emergency Food Pantry Consortium. Individuals are eligible for a food order every 30 days and must obtain a food referral from a referral agency before they receive food from the pantry. Last year our main office wrote referrals for 1304 households at Patchwork, rather than asking those in need to make an extra trip to another agency. Each food order includes 3-4 days’ worth of food, meaning we distributed approximately 31,000 meals-worth of food. We provided 204 can openers for individuals who would not have been able to utilize their food without one. Our food pantry also distributed 705 pounds of pet food from the Tuly Fund so recipients would not have to choose between feeding themselves or their pets.