- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Nearly every chair is filled Tuesday afternoon in the Fellowship Hall at Salvation Army. The crowd of 60 or so sit patiently waiting for their name to be called from the sign-up sheet.

Salvation Army officials hand the individuals bags after calling their names. The individuals then walk into the food pantry and fill the bags with free items such as bread, bagels, cereal, canned goods, Pop-Tarts, soda, Capri Suns, baby food and hygiene products.

Food flies off the pantry shelves at warp speed as the individuals file in and out.

“We really get hit in the summer, but today’s been amazingly busy,” Lt. Mary Robbins tells The Star Press (https://tspne.ws/1hU6Tin). “Our budget is almost to the bottom of the barrel.”

The crowd is primarily older in age, but there is a sizable contingent of middle-aged and younger adults, too. A few of the younger adults carry babies or push toddlers in strollers before taking a seat in the Fellowship Hall.

“Everybody has their story. None is lesser than the other,” says 55-year-old Lori Wright, as she waits for her bag.

Wright says she moved to Muncie about 18 months ago. She is unemployed after serving 5½years in the Rockville (Ind.) Correctional Facility for dealing a controlled substance in Henry County in 2004.

The law forbids food stamps for convicted felons so she depends on food pantries for nourishment. Caroline Winfrey, a behavioral technician at Meridian Health Services, drives Wright each week to a food pantry to stock up on produce.

Joseph Bland is a year older than Wright, and he is also dependent on food pantries. He frequents the Salvation Army and Muncie Mission for meals.

The 56-year-old Muncie resident lives on a limited budget. Disability pay is his sole source of income.

“I’ve got my bills to pay, and by the time I pay my bills, I’ve got no money for food,” says Bland, wearing a faded navy T-shirt and blue jeans and with his light hair graying on the sides, matching the color of his facial stubble.

Bland hung drywall until two years ago. He suffered a heart attack shortly after his wife died of colon cancer and that halted his employment.

In March, a heart ailment put Bland back in the hospital. He underwent triple-bypass surgery to repair two clogged arteries and leakage in his heart.

Life has dealt Bland his share of adversity, but he says that is true of everyone sitting in the Fellowship Hall.

“That’s no life to live, but it’s what we have to do,” Bland says. “We’re human beings and we need help.”

The Salvation Army stocks its food pantry through monetary and canned food donations. Robbins says there is already a meat shortage this summer, and the nonprofit organization is seeking donations to feed the growing crowds from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays.

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Information from: The Star Press, https://www.thestarpress.com

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