“There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.”

~Sir Winston Churchill

In a very simple, yet poignant, “stops-you-in-your-tracks” statement, Sir Winston Churchill conveyed that the responsibility to feed the hungry lies within each community.

In our own Region, the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana works tirelessly to address this issue. To achieve its goal of feeding the hungry, it relies on the greater Lake and Porter county communities for donations to supply area food pantries, soup kitchens, daycare centers and senior community centers.

Promoting Solutions

In Lake and Porter counties, there are a total of at least 100,000 people who are food insecure, which means they lack access to enough good, nutritious food for themselves and their families. The mission of the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana is “to alleviate hunger by acquiring and distributing food to people in need, promoting solutions that advance self-sufficiency and hunger relief, and leading our region in the fight against hunger.” Its vision is “to be the leader of a community mobilized to fight hunger and address its causes.” (FoodBankNWI.org/about/missionvision)

It’s not just about the food donations. According to Executive Director Arleen Peterson, the Food Bank is currently facing a monetary shortfall because donations from the community are down. “This is a challenge, because we need to supply pantries, soup kitchens, daycare centers and senior community-based sites,” Peterson says. “We work with 109 facilities throughout Lake and Porter counties.”

While food contributions are key, money is needed to supplement the items received. Peterson says food pantries try to pack a bag of nutritional, well-rounded foods. “Food banks don’t always know what food comes in,” Peterson explains. “We use the money to buy supplemental items to be sure there is shelf-stable food along with fresh produce and protein, so we can get highly nutritional food to communities.”

Peterson adds that in order to provide three meals a day to the 100,000 people in Northwest Indiana who are food insecure, 17 million meals would need to be distributed over the holidays. In 2014, the Food Bank only had the resources to serve 4.3 million meals. “This is a huge, huge gap,” she says. Peterson explains that every dollar donated provides three meals, and 94 cents of every dollar supports program expenses.

Hope for the Holidays

While hunger is a year-round phenomenon, demand is greater when it gets colder outside. Homeless and transient people have trouble finding a place to live and finding nutritional food. Peterson notes that the cost of eating healthily is very different for people who are already on a limited income. People go to both food pantries and soup kitchens, looking for as many ways as possible to access food.

In addition to efforts to collect food and monetary donations via their website, the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana sponsors a program called “Hope for the Holidays,” partnering with Round the Clock Restaurant and WJOB radio, with $20,000 in matching funds from NIPSCO. In addition, all Strack & Van Til, Ultra Foods and Town & Country stores are accepting financial contributions on behalf of the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, as well as making bags of groceries available for purchase and donation.

Another Food Bank initiative is the Pantry on the Go, which brings food to various neighborhoods each Wednesday, from 4 to 6 p.m. Sponsored by Northwest Indiana McDonald’s Owner Operators, local McDonald’s employees volunteer.