INDIANAPOLIS — Local food banks are changing the way they distribute resources, to keep up with rising demade ahead of the holidays. During the pandemic, food banks created drive through lines to keep people safe from one another. Now, Gleaners is returning to that model to make sure everyone who needs help, gets it.
"We are seeing a dramatic increase in need,” said Fred Glass, the CEO of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. “Our numbers are two times what they were in 2019. They are 50 percent more than at the beginning of this calendar year and most significantly they are 85 percent of the height of the pandemic which I would say is pretty much pandemic levels. "
A line of people seeking assistance from Gleaners food bank stretched all the way off the property Tuesday. And it's not the only agency that has not seen a slowdown since the pandemic.
"We field about 13 to 15 thousand calls a month with request for connections to resources,” Tara Morse, Executive Director of Indiana 211 said. “So, it has maintained pretty consistent.”
Indiana 211 will connect Hoosiers in need of assistance to a wide variety of resources. The executive director says the most common requests are for help with housing, utilities, and food assistance. As more Americans rely on food banks, more items are left on store shelves. One financial expert says that can ultimately help bring prices back down.
"Food banks and other non-profits serve an excellent purpose now out of a humanitarian position as well as helping the economy in terms of slowing prices,” said Ryan Brewer, associate professor of finance at Indiana University. “So with inventory stacking up, that does put pressure on prices to come down."
Brewer says most Americans will continue to see high prices until about March. If inflation proves to be stickier then economists think it is, high prices could stick around for a large part of 2023. However, he says the federal reserve has a tough balancing act moving forward.
"They are going to raise rates until they beat inflation or until they harm the labor market,” Brewer said. “So, one of those two things is going to happen.”
Food banks like Gleaners have not been immune to rising prices and inflation, but the organization is committed to helping people no matter the price.
"A misnomer is that we get all of our food for free,” Glass said. “We don't. We get a substantial amount for free, and we appreciate our partners that provide that. But to fill the gap we are having to buy more and more food and we had some of the same cost issues that our neighbors and some of your viewers have.“
Gleaners says they are serving around 700 people a day, the majority of whom are employed. Indiana's labor market is about three to one, meaning there is one person for every three job openings in the state. So if decisions by the federal reserve start to impact the labor market, economists think Indiana will likely fair better than other states.