TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– The latest “Map the Meal Gap,” data from Feeding America shows one in seven individuals in the counties across the Wabash Valley face food insecurity in 2020.

Assistant agency director for Catholic Charities, Jennifer Buell, said the data reflects the seven counties the organization works in.

“[Food insecurity] means that they lack access to enough nutritious food to lead a healthy and active lifestyle,” Buell said.

Rates were slightly higher among those ages 17 and under, as 18% of children suffered from food insecurity.

Increases also existed among minority communities, according to Buell.

“If we look at just the Black community, they see food insecurity at a rate of about 24%. And our Latino community sees a food insecurity rate of about 20%,” she said. “I think that just reinforces the need to work more closely with those populations.”

Buell said the numbers were affected by programs, like increased SNAP benefits, that started during the pandemic. She said Catholic Charities works with 80 organizations to help combat the issue.

“Those organizations are providing things like soup kitchens, or backpacks on the weekends for children. They may be providing food pantries in their own community,” she said.

One of those pantries is Our Father’s Arms. Bob Hagemeier has volunteered for them about 15 years, and said he has seen an uptick in need recently.

“We have noticed recently, and by recently I’m saying the past couple of months, for whatever reason, our numbers of need on the food side seems to have increased,” he said.

The pantry serves families on Mondays and Fridays each week. He said they’ve had about 40 families come on Mondays.

He credited other volunteers in helping meet the increased need.

When you think of 35-40 distributions of food in an hour’s period of time, you have to have things pretty well-coordinated in order to make it happen or you’d be here half the night,” he said.