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By Tom Spalding, Boulevard Place Food Pantry communications coordinator

With the new year came an important change in operations at Boulevard Place Food Pantry as we began serving clients who live exclusively in zip codes 46205, 46208, 46220, 46240 and 42620 while also requesting proof of residency.

“This necessary change in our boundaries introduces much-needed clarity to our service territory,” said Pantry Co-Director Matt Hayes. “During COVID-19 we were fortunate to be in a position to serve more of Indianapolis’ hungry, and as we emerged from the clutches of the pandemic it was time to get back to our core area.”

The mission of Boulevard Place Food Pantry, a special work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, is to provide emergency food assistance. During our drive-up Wednesdays and in-person self-select shopping on Thursdays and Saturdays in January, Pantry volunteers were able to guide out-of-boundary shoppers to alternatives. The Community Compass App, run by Indy Hunger Network, makes locations and hours of meals and other pantries known to all users.

“Our service during the pandemic illustrated the breadth of our generosity and, frankly, it also tested the limits of our volunteers,” said Pantry Board Chairwoman Phyllis McNamara. “We remain 100% dedicated to our mission and we expect our household client totals to drop as a result after setting new service highs each month for the last few years. During this transition we’ve been enjoying being able to reflect on the good we have done and to say thank you to each other and to all those who have helped.”

The Pantry is fueled primarily through individual donations and financial contributions from parishioners at Christ the King, Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Luke, St. Joan of Arc and St. Thomas Aquinas. Additional support comes from a variety of other religious institutions and non-denominational groups such as the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association.

The Pantry, which is in its 11th year of operation at 4202 N. Boulevard Place, saw service to client households organically grow from a monthly average of 686 clients in 2015 to 812 in 2018. That helped precipitate a renovation and expansion that commenced in fall 2019.

In January-February 2020, the Pantry was up to 1,012 and 901 client households, respectively, and service continued amidst the sound of hammers and drills that were part of the ongoing construction. Those clients who were coming to the Pantry lived in the five parish boundaries as defined by the Catholic churches.

When Covid-19 arrived, it forced the closure of the Pantry March 22, 2020. The Pantry reopened April 22 in a drive-up-only capacity, lasting 15 months. When the Pantry finally reopened to in-person shopping in August 2021 the Pantry was serving 881 client households. The decision was made by the board at the time to allow anyone wanting to obtain food to do so regardless of where they lived as the need was great.

“We decided during Covid-19 that it was just simpler to be more of a community resource,” co-director Cindy Brown said.

As a result, Pantry client usage skyrocketed month after month to an average of 1,359 households served in the 2022 calendar year. Data collected from shoppers indicated that a third of the visits were by people outside the five key zip codes.

Brown said she expects the monthly client totals to resume to pre-pandemic levels — about 900 to 1,000 shoppers. “That was a hard decision to make because we have a compassionate heart for our poor,” she said. “But we had to look at service from a fiscal perspective, too. We want to play a key role in the easing of hunger in Indianapolis long into the future.”

Clients from the five zip codes will be able to shop at the Pantry weekly instead of twice monthly, the pre-pandemic limit.
The Pantry is open Wednesdays (outside drive-up, pre-packed food) Thursday and Saturdays. You can access information on our pre-recorded phone line at 317-924-3461.