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.