Wakefield ’22: Crooked Creek Food Pantry

Hunter Wakefield ’22

Hunter Wakefield ’22 — This summer I have had the pleasure to be working at Crooked Creek Food Pantry in Indianapolis. The pantry serves the residents of Pike township in Marion country and a small portion of Washington township. The location of the pantry has been classified as a food desert, so the need for food is high. With only two exceptions there are no grocery stores for miles around the pantry which means many of the nearby residents struggle to get access to food that they need for proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

Every day at the pantry brings new challenges as we deal with fluctuating numbers of volunteers day by day. At times we had more volunteers than we knew what to do with and other days we would try to do the work of 2-3 people at once. Volunteers are the most important resource for a nonprofit organization and an inconsistent flow of volunteers is the pantry’s greatest challenge. The leadership here at Crooked Creek food pantry is extraordinary and they helped to make even the hardest days as easy as possible despite the lack of volunteers. The other interns and I have worked to tackle the volunteer problem. To do this we have gone out into the community and contacted local businesses, schools, and churches to create relationships between the pantry and its community. Not only has this experience making connections been invaluable, but we hope that our efforts will bring in more volunteers for the pantry.

The most powerful observation I’ve made for myself during this internship is that the reasons for why people come to the pantry were often different from what I’d expect. Before working at the pantry, I always assumed people came to food pantries because they couldn’t afford food or didn’t have easy access to it, but I’ve since learned that there is almost always more nuance to each person’s situation. For example, many cannot afford food because of new medical expenses. Another common situation I often see is that retired folk come to pantry because they no longer have enough money in retirement because they have to care for their grandchildren.  Whatever their reason for coming the guests of the pantry are all in need of the little bit of help that the pantry provides.

My experience interning at Crooked Creek Food Pantry is one I’m truly happy to have gotten the opportunity to have. I’ve gotten to meet many wonderful volunteers that I would’ve never met otherwise. If this internship is an option for students next summer I will strongly recommend it to anyone who has a love for community service and working with many interesting people.

Armbruster ’20: Crooked Creek Food Pantry

Michael Armbruster ’20 (L) and Hunter Wakefield ’22

Michael Armbruster ’20 — As a Crooked Creek Food Pantry intern, I would like to thank Stephen Claffey, the president of the pantry, for providing this internship and Wabash College and the Global Health Initiative for offering this position as well as providing funding for this phenomenal internship. During this internship, I have really seen the face of poverty and what generational poverty can do to people. It has been an eye opener to see poverty in action nearly every day. From stocking our shelves with food that is donated or bought, to helping each person who comes in to pick out their food, to recruiting volunteers, there is much more to running a food pantry than I previously thought. For some people who come to the pantry, they do not get much human interaction and simply taking the time out of our day to talk to them and help them with their food selection means a lot to them. One specific example for me was when I helped this very elderly Spanish speaking lady pick out her food. Not only was she elderly, she was alone and did not speak any English. For me to take to the time to speak to her in Spanish and be patient with her as she looked at nearly all the food in the pantry really gave her a smile and happy day. After helping her with all the food shopping, she gave me a hug and told me “Thank you and God bless”. This shows that just having the patience to help these people means a lot to them and helping them when they might be down on their luck might just be the motivation they need. Working in this business really shows you how much people out there need help and how grateful they are to receive this kind of help as well. Another experience, as a whole, is experiencing people who have great attitudes about coming to the food pantry to shop. While most people who receive food from the pantry are grateful, some people really go above and beyond my expectations on how grateful they actually are. When people come in and have great attitudes and have fun while they are shopping really lifts themselves up but me as well. Poverty is a very tough thing to experience and living in poverty must be much worse. However, for some, attitude is much more important and them having a good attitude allows them to have a better life. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to work at the pantry and to learn and see the face of poverty in person. I have definitely grown and matured immensely from this internship.