EDITORIAL: Short-term, long-term help for hunger

2012-11-22T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Short-term, long-term help for hunger nwitimes.com
November 22, 2012 12:00 am  • 

This Thanksgiving, as we stuff first the turkey or stovetop and then ourselves, we must recognize that thousands in Northwest Indiana don't have enough to eat.

Sure, there are many programs to make sure they are fed today, but what about the rest of the year?

A 2011 study by Feeding America found 20 percent of children in Northwest Indiana are "food insecure," meaning they don't always know where their next meal is coming from. 

The Food Bank of Northwest Indiana has found that 81 percent of pantries, 57 percent of soup kitchens and 75 percent of shelters have seen an increase in the number of clients since 2006.

The food bank has even outgrown its facility just off Grant Street in Gary as a result of the growing need for its services.

Some remarkable efforts have arisen throughout the area to provide short-term solutions.

The Food Bank of Northwest Indiana has a backpack program, for example, that provides a bag containing six meals and two snacks to make sure children get enough to eat over the weekend, when schools aren't serving nutritious meals. A number of churches and other organizations help fund the program.

Valparaiso's 500 Turkeys program this year distributed more than 600 turkeys and other Thanksgiving meal items to needy families.

Greater Hammond Community Services likewise distributed 600 bags of food to families.

There are many more stories of residents showing generosity to others in their community. That's a relief. Those efforts are vital.

This is a problem that requires many efforts — not just to fill food pantries and to fund programs like Meals on Wheels, but also to provide long-term solutions.

The region also needs additional jobs that pay enough for residents to wean themselves off short-term assistance.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development reported Tuesday that the state ranks seventh in the nation in jobs created over the past year, and that the state's unemployment rate dropped in October to 8 percent, from 8.2 percent in September.

But the unemployment rates in Lake and LaPorte counties rose in October, to 8.7 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively. Porter County's rate remained at 6.9 percent.

Even those numbers have a lot of gaps, omitting people who have given up looking for work or who are underemployed. The need for additional jobs is urgent.

Economic development must remain a vital mission in the region. Generating additional jobs that pay well is the one sure way to reduce hunger and other effects of poverty.

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