Human Services closing food pantry

Human Services Inc. in Jackson County plans to end its community food pantry service in 2017.

The last day the pantry at 1115 E. Oak St., Seymour, will be open for clients to receive food is Jan. 25, according to a news release from the agency.

Jill Hammer, executive director of Human Services, said the expense of running the pantry is what led to the decision to close it.

“It’s very expensive to run, and we don’t get support dollars from any special grants or anything like that,” she said.

The pantry relies on volunteers to help stock and distribute food and receives commodities from Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis and donations from the public. It currently is open once a week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays.

But like any pantry, sometimes donations are up, and sometimes they are down, Hammer said.

With other food pantries available in the county, including Anchor House and Community Provisions, Hammer said Human Services’ pantry was duplicating services.

“There are a number of other pantries and churches that offer pantries in the area,” she said. “We don’t feel like it will hurt the community.”

Human Services is serving about 145 households a month through its pantry, but many of those families also receive food from Anchor House and Community Provisions, Hammer said.

The agency is notifying clients of the closure by handing out fliers with information for other pantries and hot meal sites in the county, Hammer said.

By closing the pantry, Hammer said the amount of food Anchor House receives from Gleaners should increase.

“That should help,” she said.

But the closure will still make an impact, said Deb Bedwell, executive director of Anchor House.

“I know we have a lot of the same clients,” she said.

That impact may not be felt for a few months, however, she added.

“Tax season begins in February and is usually a slower pantry month, so we may not see the effects of it until March,” she said.

Paul Brock, director of Community Provisions, said the closing means people have fewer options to get food. He expects the number of people visiting Community Provisions to increase next year.

“So far, by the end of November, we have already served more clients this year than any previous years,” Brock said. “With Human Services closing, I would expect to see those numbers climb even higher. How much higher, only time will tell.”

Based in Clifford, Human Services works to help bridge the gap from poverty to financial stability by offering programs to low-income residents in Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson, Decatur, Johnson and Shelby counties. Those programs include energy assistance, weatherization, Head Start preschool, housing rental vouchers and the new Coaching for Success initiative.

Hammer wasn’t sure how long the agency has operated a food pantry in Seymour but said it has been at least 15 years.

Human Services’ goal has evolved from providing emergency assistance to helping families end poverty, she said.

Money used to operate the food pantry will be redirected to Seymour’s Coaching for Success program, which partners families with mentors and resources to break the cycle of poverty.

“It’s a program for those that have been in the cycle of poverty and are now ready to work to get out of that situation,” she said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.