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Record day at Fresh Market doesn’t leave Food Finders celebrating
Plus, Purdue’s careful reaction to a Supreme Court ruling to stop use of race in admissions. WL Council races see new faces. Lafayette’s Generation NA winds up as a top pick for non-alcoholic shops
Thanks for sponsorship help today from MatchBOX Coworking Studio, presenting its Sixth & South Annual Fundraiser on July 15, from 6-10 p.m. Attendees will enjoy live music by DJ Kyle Robert Paquin and Ebony & the Ruckus, food by Revolution BBQ, a silent auction filled with local and experiential items, snow cones by Sno Biz of Lafayette and more at this fun event. Tickets start at $50 and the proceeds support under-funded local businesses to create a more vibrant Great Lafayette. Learn more and purchase your ticket today: mbx.studio/sixthsouth
RECORD DAY AT FRESH MARKET DOESN’T LEAVE FOOD FINDERS CELEBRATING
Food Finders Food Bank hit a red-flag milestone this week at its Fresh Market, the nonprofit’s supermarket-styled approach to a pantry on Greenbush Street.
Kier Crites Muller, Food Finders CEO and president, said Fresh Market served 1,000 households in a single day for the first time since opening in the former Sav-A-Lot store at the east side of Market Square Shopping Center.
“Not something we’re celebrating, but certainly concerned about,” Crites Muller said.
Here’s a conversation this week about why that’s the case – and what’s driving that record day.
Question: When you say Fresh Market had 1,000 households in one day, how is that measured? I’m guessing by number of transactions, but you tell me, to be sure.
Kier Crites Muller: Yes, we measure the number of people that check out of the pantry. Each person represents a household. Serving 1,002 households in one day is a new daily high.
Q: Has Fresh Market been slowly moving toward that mark? Or was this a sudden jump recently?
Kier Crites Muller: The first big jump we saw was in March 2022; it’s been a steady increase since then. If you think back to that time, that’s when gas and grocery prices started rising and talk of inflation began.
Q: What was an average day for Food Finders at Fresh Market, say, at the same time in 2022? Or even earlier in 2023?
Kier Crites Muller: On June 28, 2022, the Fresh Market served 777 households – the highest number of households for that month. We’ve been averaging nearly 700 folks a day in 2023, with highs in the 800-900s.
Q: What factors do you attribute to hitting that 1,000 households in a day?
Kier Crites Muller: There are several compounding factors – one of those is summer hunger. During summer break, families with lower incomes often struggle with the additional cost of child care, higher grocery bills and miscellaneous unexpected expenses. With limited opportunities to access food through free and reduced school lunch and breakfast programs, families lack access to nutritious food. Another factor is that additional COVID-19 aid has ended, and the daily cost of living is increasing, so more of our neighbors are experiencing the material consequences of inflation.
Q: Are you seeing similar increases in mobile pantries and other Food Finders programs?
Kier Crites Muller: Yes, we’re also seeing increased visits to our mobile pantries across our service area, and our agency partners are reporting increased visits to their pantries as well.
Q: Is Food Finders stocked and ready for that sort of demand? Have you had to adjust operations, at all?
Kier Crites Muller: Yes and no. We are proud to, and strive to provide consistent, reliable access to food for our neighbors in need. Like any organization, we budget annually to try to anticipate demand and cost as much as we can. Unfortunately, expenses to simply operate – gas, purchasing food, electricity, email platforms, etc. – are up on average 40 percent across the board. On top of that, we are having to purchase more food than we usually do to keep up with demand as our other supplemental food sources like TEFAP (USDA commodity food) and general food donations have been down.
Our team has done a fantastic job sticking to our budget while serving more and more people. For now, we’ve been able to do so by pulling back slightly on the variety or number of different food options available to those who shop with us. For example, a year ago we may have offered 20 different items to choose from on our shelves, but we’ve cut back to 15. Where we used to offer milk as a daily option, we have had to pull back to offering it three times a week. These small tweaks are working for now and we hope not to have to take more drastic measures.
Looking ahead, we are watching the Farm Bill closely. Higher rates of food insecurity add to concerns over the passage of a bipartisan, substantial piece of legislation. As Congress works to reauthorize the Farm Bill, we urge lawmakers to strengthen federal nutrition programs — programs that work with food banks across the country to provide food assistance to families and individuals facing hunger. Especially as groceries become more expensive and supply chain disruptions continue, food banks alone cannot meet the elevated demand for food support. Congress must strengthen our nation’s commitment to ending hunger by strengthening critical anti-hunger programs in the 2023 Farm Bill.
Q: You mentioned that this isn’t something you’re celebrating but certainly concerned about. Tell me why.
Kier Crites Muller: Yes, we mention this because seeing 1,000 folks come through our line in a single day is not something to celebrate, rather it marks a milestone that shows a stark look at those struggling to make ends meet. We are grateful to our community, donors and volunteers for believing in and supporting our mission to ensure that everyone has access to food and that with their support, we are able to meet the demand.
We are especially proud of our team, the Fresh Market employees, and volunteers – many repeat – who work daily to serve our neighbors through the pantry. Serving 1,000 households in five hours is not an easy feat, but they do so graciously and with compassion.
Q: What other context should people know?
Kier Crites Muller: Feeding America released the latest annual estimate of charitable food assistance participation today. In 2022, approximately 49 million people, or 1 in 6, received charitable food assistance.
The latest data we have for Tippecanoe County was released this spring, which showed over 20,000 people, 1 in 9, experienced food insecurity in 2021. However, those numbers no longer reflect our reality, they show a snapshot of a year in the pandemic when the government, public and charitable sectors were working in tandem and threw all available resources at hunger relief to mitigate fallout from COVID-19. And it worked; we saw the needle move from 12.4 percent of our area neighbors facing hunger to 11.1 percent – a difference of 10,000 people. This means change is possible.
Q: And what are the best ways for people to help, whether donating, volunteering or anything else?
Kier Crites Muller: Volunteering and donating, always. We especially need volunteers during the summer – we lose a significant number of volunteers when Purdue students go home for the summer.
Donations. We know everyone is feeling the pinch in their finances right now, but if you have the opportunity to make a financial contribution, that is the best way to support our mission and our hunger-relief programs.
Advocacy. Again, we are concerned about proposed cuts to our nation’s federal nutrition and safety-net programs through the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
People can visit our website to sign up for a volunteer shift or to donate.
If people want to become an advocate for us, please sign-up for our biweekly newsletter and watch for upcoming advocacy-focused actions: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/kSVs24E/Advocacy
NOW’S THE RIGHT TIME TO SIGN UP FOR BASED IN LAFAYETTE. GET EVERY EDITION, STRAIGHT TO YOU INBOX. FREE AND FULL-RIDE SUBSCRIPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE HERE …
PURDUE ON SUPREME COURT’S ADMISSIONS RULING: UNIVERSITY ‘WILL FOLLOW THE LAW’
Will Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, blocking consideration of race in college admissions, force Purdue to adjust policies and practices in a time of record-setting enrollment in West Lafayette? The response from campus, so far, boiled down to six words:
"Purdue University will follow the law,” Purdue spokesman Tim Doty said.
Doty didn’t respond to follow-up questions about whether or how race factored into Purdue’s admissions process.
In cases that centered on admissions practices at the University of North Carolina and Harvard, the court ruled 6-3 and 6-2 that race can’t be a factor in admissions and would need to find other ways to get diverse student bodies.
At Purdue, undergraduate enrollment data show that the percentage of white students has dropped from 67% to 61% since the fall 2013 semester, with the largest percentage gains going to Asian American students (up from 5% in 2013 to 13% in 2022), according to Purdue’s Data Digest. Black students made up roughly 2% of the record 37,949 undergraduates on the West Lafayette campus in fall 2022.
In that time, the number of underrepresented minorities – Black, Hispanic/Latino and those listed with two or more races – in Purdue’s undergraduate student body had grown from 2,495 in fall 2013 to 4,326 in fall 2022. In an enrollment growing at record speeds in that time, that equaled an increase from 8.4% of undergraduate students in 2013 to 11.3% in 2022.
WBAA reporter Ben Thorp and WYFI reporter Sydney Dauphinais found other universities and higher education officials in the state treading lightly, at least publicly, after the ruling, reluctant to share how race factored into current admissions policies. Here’s their story: “Indiana colleges, lawmakers respond to Supreme Court’s overturn of affirmative action in admissions.”
For more looks at the rulings:
AP reporter Mark Sherman had this on the ruling, writing that it “marked the realization of a long-sought conservative legal goal in finding that race-conscious admissions plans violate the Constitution and a law that applies to recipients of federal funding, as almost all colleges and universities are.” The story: “Divided Supreme Court outlaws affirmative action in college admissions, says race can’t be used.”
Politico reporters Josh Gerstein, Bianca Quilantan and Kierra Frazier had this: “Supreme Court guts affirmative action in college admissions.”
Washington Post reporters Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga had this primer: “What to know about the Supreme Court ruling on college admissions.”
In a ruling written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court determined: “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it. … The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite.” Here’s a link to the full ruling.
Washington Post reporter Ann E. Marimow chronicled how Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor – the court’s second Black and first Latina justices – delivered rare public statements in the courtroom, expressing starkly different views on the ruling: “For Thomas and Sotomayor, affirmative action ruling is deeply personal.”
Washington Post reporter Amy B. Wang looked at Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s dissenting opinion in Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, which called out the ruling as “let-them-eat-cake obliviousness” to the realities of the barriers that have been put up for generations that make it difficult for Black Americans to get a foothold. Here’s that story, along with links to a dissent that doesn’t hold back: “Jackson’s dissent decries affirmative action decision as ‘tragedy for us all.’”
REPUBLICANS RECRUIT FORMER POLICE CHIEF, BUSINESS OWNER TO RUN FOR AT-LARGE WEST LAFAYETTE CITY COUNCIL SEATS
As time winds down for major parties to fill open spots on the November municipal ballots, West Lafayette Republicans are scheduled to meet Saturday to add Patrick Flannelly, retired Lafayette police chief, and Brian Russell, a real estate broker and co-owner of Brokerage Brewing Co., as candidates for at-large seats on the West Lafayette City Council.
“Exciting, that’s the word,” Tracy Brown, Tippecanoe County Republican Party chair, said Thursday. “They are quality, quality community people, and we’re fortunate to have them step forward.”
Flannelly and Russell will join three Democrats – incumbents James Blanco and David Sanders, and Iris O’Donnell Bellisario, the top vote-getter in a May 3 primary – vying for three at-large seats on the city council. As at-large candidates, they will be on ballots across the city.
Flannelly, a West Lafayette native, retired as LPD chief in 2022 after 27 years with the police department.
“When looking at the slate of local candidates, I realized there is no candidate with a public safety background, one of the most important economic drivers for any community,” Flannelly said. “It is a bit cliché, but also very accurate: West Lafayette is my home, not just where I live and work. If I can help, which I believe I can, I would like the opportunity to do so.”
Russell said he was drawn to the city council race to deal with a looming housing shortage across the community and to “prioritize streets, parks, sewers and safety, not Tide pods and plastic straws.”
“I also want our city to stay aligned with Purdue and (Greater Lafayette Commerce), supporting the recruitment of innovative companies in tech and manufacturing, like Saab and SEL, for example,” Russell said.
Also in West Lafayette City Council elections, Democrats slated Laila Veidemanis, a Purdue student, to run in District 1. Nick DeBoer, another Democrat, has had that seat for 10 years but isn’t running for re-election. Veidemanis will face Republican Aaron Abell.
The deadline for major party candidates to fill open slots on the November municipal ballot is noon Monday, July 3. Brown and Jacque Chosnek, Tippecanoe County Democratic Party chair, said they have no plans to slate other candidates in Lafayette or West Lafayette.
Independent candidates have until noon Friday, June 30, to file necessary signatures to get on the November ballot.
THIS AND THAT …
NA ON MAIN STREET: High praise this week went out to Rob Theodorow’s shop, Generation NA, a non-alcoholic brew outlet near the corner of Main and Fifth streets in Lafayette, included in Wine Enthusiast’s list: “The Best Non-Alcoholic Bottle Shops in America, According to the Pros.” From the piece: “Once I arrived at Generation NA, I discovered the gold standard for NA shops,” says Deb Podlogar, host of the “Thriving Alcohol-Free with Mocktail Mom” podcast.
Not bad for a local concept just past its first birthday.
Thanks, again, for sponsorship help today from MatchBOX Coworking Studio, presenting its Sixth & South Annual Fundraiser on July 15. For details and ticket, go to: mbx.studio/sixthsouth
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