EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Join Lake Area United Way in fight against hunger

2013-08-04T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Join Lake Area United Way in fight against hungerBy Lou Martinez nwitimes.com
August 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Lake Area United Way is committed to improving our communities through the areas of education, income and health. Helping to fight hunger is a key part of our mission because it directly impacts each of these areas.

More than 87,000 people in Lake County, including 26,530 children, deal with hunger each year.

Hungry adults often have more health issues, which lead to more time off work and less productivity. Children who don’t get enough to eat have more behavioral problems and don’t do as well in school. Seniors often have to choose between paying for food or paying for their medications, so their health suffers. They have to make more trips to the emergency room.

Hunger impacts the person struggling to put food on the table. The byproducts of hunger also have a cost to our society, whether educational, health related or economic.

It is shockingly easy to become one of the more than 87,000 people suffering from hunger. All it takes is an unexpected medical emergency, the loss of a job, a natural disaster or the continually rising price of basic necessities to stretch a family’s budget to the point where they have to turn to a pantry or soup kitchen for help.

The Food Bank of Northwest Indiana reports that 51 percent of clients served must choose between buying food and paying for basic utilities. Another 45 percent must choose between buying food and putting gas in their car, and 36 percent must choose between food and paying for health care.

This year, the fight against hunger will play an integral part in Lake Area United Way’s Day of Caring -- our annual event celebrating volunteerism throughout Northwest Indiana. Groups from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties will come together to volunteer with different community organizations on special projects. This year’s Day of Caring takes place Aug. 23. For more information on the Day of Caring and how you can participate, visit www.nwivolunteer.org.

Thanks to the generous support and partnership with Strack and Van Til (Dave Wilkinson) and BP (Tom Keilman), Lake Area United Way will be able to host a special volunteer activity on the Day of Caring. The event, known as “Pack-a-Palooza," will focus on providing food for those 87,000 people experiencing hunger locally. We will be packing 50,000 meals to give to the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana to distribute to families in need. We have recruited over 170 volunteers to help package the meals. This is a rewarding and easy way for the community to join the fight against hunger.

The Lake Area United Way will also be fighting hunger this fall as a Grand Harvest sponsor for the Food Bank’s 11th Annual Hope’s Harvest 5K Walk/Run. All proceeds from the walk/run go to the Food Bank’s 90 pantries and soup kitchens to purchase food and keep their shelves stocked.

We encourage you to join in this event on Oct. 26. For more information, visit www.hopesharvest.kintera.org. The hunger crisis in Lake County is real, and you can do something about it. The Lake Area United Way is proud to be a partner in the fight against hunger. We hope you’ll join us.

Lou Martinez is president and CEO of the Lake Area United Way. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's.

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