PORTAGE | The number of residents served by the Portage Township Food Pantry continues to grow, but officials know they're only reaching a fraction of those who need help.
In an effort to reach more families, the pantry will begin offering evening hours on a trial basis.
"We are reaching only 6 percent of the people who really need this," Director of Operations Bobbie DeKemper said.
The pantry, at the back of the Portage Adult Education Building, 5391 Central Ave., serves more than 600 families and 2,000 individuals each month.
In October, the pantry served 636 families, including 78 first-time users. In November, 602 families were served, including 93 new clients.
"We were thinking more and more about the people who are working, but just not getting by," said Sarah Tracy, director of volunteers. "They just can't make it in during our Friday hours."
The pantry usually distributes food from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Friday.
To reach more people, the pantry will be open for distribution for three Thursday evenings. Food will given to qualifying families from 4 to 7 p.m. Jan. 12, Feb. 9 and March 8. The pantry will not distribute food on Fridays during those weeks.
DeKemper said volunteers will try the evening hours for three months and evaluate if the change is successful.
To become a client, people must show proof of Portage Township residence and have income levels within federal Food and Drug Administration guidelines. Clients can receive food once a month.
DeKemper said it costs between $5,000 and $6,000 per month to operate the pantry. Donations have been up for the holiday season, she said, but will be needed year-round to keep the pantry running.
While donations of nonperishable food or personal items are always welcome, monetary donations are particularly beneficial because the pantry can purchase food at good prices from the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, Tracy said.
Anyone interested in donating to the pantry may drop off items on Friday mornings or send donations to the Portage Township Food Pantry, P.O. Box 1582, Portage, IN 46368.