The Caring Center food pantry runs in cycles of feast or famine, and the absence of peas on the shelf indicates the annual famine is underway.

Food pantries, in general, experience a feast of donations from November through December. Donations drop dramatically through the spring, “and it’s downhill from there with summer and vacations,” Theresa Hanners, Caring Center executive director, said.

“We kind of get forgotten, put on the back burner,” she said.

Caring Center clients receive points to select their own food, based on family size and the food pyramid. Pantry organizers like to have a variety of choices available in each category.

Peas are popular in the vegetable category, so Hanners put out a cry for help last week when the peas ran out, which rarely happens. There are still plenty of green beans and corn at present, she said.

“We just like to throw a yell out so people can remember … and try to do something all year round,” Hanners said.

The food pantry serves about 400 Boone County families per month. Individuals range from the young to the elderly. One fourth of its clients are children.

Clients fall into the food insecure category, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as lacking consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

Forty percent of the Caring Center’s food recipients also receive aid through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which Hanners said can help families move to self-sufficiency. The other 60 percent of her clients do not qualify for federal assistance but need help, Hanners said.

“Food insecurity is a main issue around here,” Hanners said. “We deal with a lot of situational crisis and generational poverty.”

The goal is always self-sufficiency. The Caring Center works to stabilize families in crisis and move those in poverty toward self-sufficiency. It is an umbrella organization for a number of programs helping Boone County’s citizens in need. The center also offers donated clothing, furniture and other essentials for those in need.

Indiana’s food insecurity rate for 2015-17, was 13.6 percent, slightly higher than the national average of 12.3, according to the USDA.

There are numerous ways to help. Area civic clubs take up donations for The Caring Center at meetings. Some families tithe their food budget. And some local parents set aside a budget and take their children shopping to choose food for those in need, Hanners said.

The pantry is currently in dire need of powdered milk, peas, pork and beans, chili beans, pancake mix and syrup, and diapers in sizes 5 and 6.

The larger sizes of diapers are usually needed because people naturally think of babies when they buy diapers to donate and gravitate toward the smaller sizes, Hanners said, adding, “We always appreciate anything.”

High-protein groceries such as tuna, peanut butter, canned chicken or nuts are always in demand.

The top 10 foods requested by clients are apple juice, apple sauce, canned pineapple, cereal, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, tuna, oil, sugar and spaghetti sauce.

Caring Center hours

8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Wednesday

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday

9 a.m. to noon first Saturday of the month

Closed third Tuesday and fourth Thursday of the month.

Drop off donations at The Caring Center, 1230 Ransdell Court, Lebanon.

For more information, call 765-482-2020.

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