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Harvest Walk planned to fight community hunger

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This wasn’t the kind of record that Interchurch Food Pantry officials wanted to break.

More than ever before, local residents are struggling to feed themselves and their families. Food prices have risen more than 13% since last August. People can’t afford the extra costs, on top of inflation in other areas of the economy.

As a result, the food pantry is serving 66% more people this year than in 2021 — which was already a record year.

“The families who come to visit us are families who don’t have a lot of money they can spare to start with, and they’re being hit really hard by that increases in food prices, at a time when other prices are going up,” said Carol Phipps, executive director of the Interchurch Food Pantry. “We’re hearing the stories of people who come through in a day-in, day-out basis that they just can’t make ends meet.”

The overwhelming need the food pantry is facing only underscores the importance of its key fundraiser. The Harvest Walk is an annual fundraiser bringing people from throughout the community together to donate to the pantry and walk for a good cause.

Participants will meet at 2 p.m. Oct. 2 at Grace United Methodist Church in Franklin to take part in either a three-mile loop or a one-mile wheelchair-friendly route. A performance by the Retro Brothers, a ’70s and ’80s party band, will keep the atmosphere lively during registration from 1 to 2 p.m.

Most of all, the efforts will ensure that no one goes hungry in the community, Phipps said.

“This is our one big fundraiser that we do each year. It’s an opportunity for individuals and families from across the community to come together to fight hunger,” she said.

The Interchurch Food Pantry has been dedicated to alleviating hunger in the Johnson County community for 39 years.

And every year, it seems that need for food relief in the area has only grown. In 2021, the pantry distributed the equivalent of 1 million meals to an average 1,736 households per month. This year has been even busier.

“We have more people coming out, we have new people who haven’t been here before, who have been pushed over the edge and can’t make ends meet without additional help,” Phipps said.

Interchurch Food Pantry relies on donations, both of food and money, to purchase what they need. The Harvest Walk is the organization’s prime yearly fundraiser, Phipps said.

The Harvest Walk had its beginnings more than 30 years ago, when it was called the CROP Walk. Even though the name has changed, it remains a tradition for generations of families.

“The CROP Walk was known for bringing churches and families together across Johnson County. My kids grew up every year walking in the CROP Walk with me, so there are a lot of good memories and people come back every year because they know how much good it does for the community,” Phipps said.

Participants will again meet at Grace United Methodist Church, where they will pass under an arch of green, yellow and orange balloons before heading out. The route includes part of the Franklin Greenway Trail and a walkway through Franklin College’s campus. Dogs on leashes are welcome. A water station is will be placed near the campus chapel.

The Retro Brothers will provide music prior to the walk, and face painting will also be available for adults and children. Refreshments will be served once people return to the church.

“We love seeing the turnout of smiling faces who come back to support us,” Phipps said. “We see people from different churches who congregate together and have their picture taken in front of the Harvest Walk sign. We see people from Greenwood, Bargersville, all the way down to Edinburgh and everything in between, who come together because they want to make a difference.”

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