Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Food For Thought

By Vicki Eichmiller
Vicki Eichmiller

Much of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s identity is rooted in its mission to feed the poor. In our line of work, we see hunger take many forms.

For 42 million Americans, hunger takes the form of “food insecurity.” The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as, “the lack of access, at times, to enough food for all household members.” In 2018, an estimated 13.4 percent of Hoosiers had inconsistent access to food. 

For Benedictine Sister Donna Marie Herr, manager of St. Vincent de Paul’s food pantry, food insecurity is a reality that her neighbors face every day.

Through her experience at the food pantry, Sister Donna has found that food insecurity means more than inconsistent access to food, it also means having inconsistent access to a space to cook and store food.

There can be a grocery store minutes away; but without a refrigerator and money to pay the electricity bill, food security becomes a challenge – and the problem doesn’t end there.  Evansville has a few neighborhoods that are considered “food deserts” where it can be difficult to buy fresh and affordable groceries without a car. Currently, the closest grocery store to the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, located in Evansville’s Promise Zone, is two miles away.

Imagine having to walk four miles, roundtrip, in the summer heat or winter snow, several times a week to buy food. It becomes a time-consuming and exhausting task.

Living in neighborhoods with fewer grocery stores can cause individuals to turn to convenience stores or fast food restaurants as their primary dietary sources. With scarce healthy, affordable food options available, parents must choose between food that is affordable and food that is nutritious. This decision can lead to higher rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in families that are simultaneously at risk of malnourishment.

While all segments of the U.S. population are affected by obesity, food-insecure people can be especially vulnerable due to the aforementioned risk factors.

We want to encourage donors to think twice about their food because the food that you donate makes a huge difference.

You can help us end food insecurity by considering the nutritional value of the food you donate.  We always need donations that are low in sugar and sodium and high in protein.

Donating more nutrient-dense food allows SVdP to provide more nutritious meals, which combat food insecurity and diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes.

Now is an especially important time to donate because many people struggle with the approaching hot summer months, and children will be out of school soon without access to meal programs. In addition to extra childcare costs, parents are faced with high utility bills.

During the fall of 2017, in order to provide more healthy and nutritious food to our neighbors, we were delighted to hear that the Welborn Baptist Foundation, Inc. gave the HEAL (HealthyEating Active Living) Grant of $125,024 to St. Vincent Evansville. The grant supports the Healthy Harvest program, a new collaborative initiative between St. Vincent Evansville, Seton Harvest and St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry to help bring healthy food to those who need it in the Evansville Community.

The grant supported the purchase of a greenhouse and hydroponics system that will allow for year-round growth of fruits and vegetables. This program has been underway for more than a year now. The greenhouse is located at Seton Harvest, a community-supported agriculture initiative sponsored by the Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise. The produce grown has been distributed by the Seton Harvest delivery truck to local food pantries, homeless shelters, school backpack programs and various other outlets.

We are truly blessed during the summer months with the fresh produce donations from Seton Harvest and from our many local farmers. The fresh vegetables are always in high demand, and our friends and neighbors are excited to have access to this food year-round. However, even with these donations, 1 in 4 of our neighbors go to bed hungry every night.

If you can't make it to the food pantry to drop off a donation, you can still help! You can make an online donation at so families can avoid the devastating experiences of food insecurity and hunger. For more information about SVdP and how you can get involved please check out our website or Facebook page.