SOUTHERN INDIANA — A major donation from Duke Energy will help provide food to families across Southern Indiana as local food pantries see an increased demand during the pandemic.
The Duke Energy Foundation donated $10,000 to Dare to Care Food Bank to support its food pantries across Southern Indiana.
A check presentation took place Monday at Hope Southern Indiana’s food pantry. The New Albany nonprofit is one of many local food pantries that will be supported by the donation.
The donation is going directly to Dare to Care’s food delivery program called Feeding Families.
Angie Graf, executive director of Hope Southern Indiana, said it’s a “blessing to see people step up in the community and fill in the gaps to meet the need where it is.”
The Hope Southern Indiana food pantry is open Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 3:15 p.m.
Since the pandemic started, Hope Southern Indiana has seen 643 new clients who had never visited a food pantry before, Graf said.
“The need does fluctuate, and right now we have a lot more people who are needing help,” she said. “They are making decisions between prescriptions or food or rent — right now rent is the big one — and so we get a lot of thank you’s saying ‘we don’t know what we would do if you weren’t here,’” she said.
Dare to Care serves 13 counties, including eight in Kentucky and five in Southern Indiana. It has more than 60 Southern Indiana partners in Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Washington and Crawford counties that will benefit from the donation.
The Southern Indiana partners range from small church organizations to larger operations such as Hope Southern Indiana.
Cassie Cairns works with Dare to Care’s partner development team, and she works specifically with Hope Southern Indiana.
The food pantry at Hope Southern Indiana has had to make a huge pivot to provide drive-thru food distribution and other services during the pandemic.
“They are still serving a large number of people, they are serving with incredible abundance and generosity, and they are serving with the utmost safety in COVID precautions,” Cairns said.
There has been a 15% increase in food insecurity across the entire Dare to Care network in both Indiana and Kentucky, according to Cairns.
Emily Essex, director of business partnerships at Dare to Care, said Duke Energy has been a longtime supporter of the food bank, and she is excited to receive its donation.
There have been many challenges for Dare to Care and its partners over the past year, including supply chain disruption, Essex said.
“Donations are down, retail need is up and purchasing is delayed because of supply chain, so we are really at an interesting time,” she said.
Graf said one of the biggest challenges has been finding volunteers for the food pantry. There are now about 65 volunteers a week.
“A lot of our volunteers are from the retired senior volunteer program, and a lot of them are worried about their health,” she said. “I think having the vaccine is really going to make a difference in the next few months, so we’re almost there.”
Lisa Brones Huber, government and community relations manager at Duke Energy, awarded the check to Dare to Care during the Monday presentation.
“This is really exciting,” Huber said. “I just appreciate so much everything that Dare to Care, Hope Southern Indiana are doing,” she said. “We know there’s been a strain on these nonprofits to meet the need during the pandemic, and we appreciate and applaud their efforts for helping people get food on the table.”