Study: Thousands face hunger issues in NWI

2014-04-22T18:30:00Z 2014-04-23T07:46:06Z Study: Thousands face hunger issues in NWIChas Reilly, (219) 662-5324

A national analysis of hunger issues shows nearly 16 percent of the population in Lake and Porter counties faces food insecurity.

According to the Map the Meal Gap 2014 study, there are 84,250 people who are food insecure in Lake County and 19,770 facing food insecurity in Porter County.

Of those 104,020 people, 34,190 are children, the study shows.

Food insecurity refers to limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life.

"Studies like Map the Meal Gap 2014 allow the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana to continue to evaluate and adjust the need in our area," said Arleen Peterson, executive director at the food bank.

According to the study, completed by Feeding America, about 34 percent of the people facing food insecurity in Lake and Porter counties don't qualify for government nutrition programs.

Those people must rely on charitable food assistance agencies to obtain meals.

The food bank would have to distribute more than 18 million meals in a year to meet the needs of those facing hunger issues in the region, according to the organization.

In 2013, the food bank distributed more than 5 million pounds of food, which is the equivalent of about 4.2 million meals.

Peterson said data from the Map the Meal Gap study will "help us define the social issues plaguing our area and work together as a community to find a solution."

In addition to supplying food to nearly 100 pantries and soup kitchens in Lake and Porter counties, the food bank operates other programs to assist those in need.

OneĀ of those is the food bank's HOPE Project, which sets out to break the generational cycle of poverty by providing free educational services and food to students.

Megan Sikes, communication/advocacy manager at the food bank, said the program is only available to elementary school students in East Chicago.

She said the food bank partners with Communities In Schools, which provides the education services for the HOPE Project.

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