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“Summer isn’t fun when you’re hungry!” There’s a statement we don’t often hear and it is likely many people don’t often think about the plight of hunger. Yet one in six Hoosiers, including one in four children, do not have adequate access to nutritious, safe food. I suppose we all take something in our life for granted – a spouse, our family, a friend, our health, or perhaps our place of employment. Whatever it might be, we just don’t believe something bad will happen to us.
Every summer for the last seven years, our friends at Sodexo on the campus of Indiana State University have participated in a summer feeding program appropriately titled Feeding Our Future. What this program does is simple, but it offers great meaning to the more than one dozen member agencies that focus on summer feeding for children. Last year alone this program provided more than 60,000 meals; and since it began here in the Wabash Valley, it has provided more than 450,000 meals.
“When we first began talking about this program, we knew we had to implement it for our community,” said Ray Viet, Sodexo Director at ISU. “We have a very active staff that regularly sees what this community struggles with and clearly wants to help make a difference. Having an existing relationship with the Foodbank made this project seem like a natural fit. We want to make a positive difference of the lives of children and this is a very direct way of doing that.”
The “Foodbank” is the Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank. Early each spring the two organizations meet to determine food item selections and to place an order. This order is often increased as other organizations, corporations and vendors on campus hear through word of mouth about the program and want to donate products. Once at the Foodbank, the food is used to fill orders placed by other 501( c )( 3 ) non-profit agencies that serve meals to children.
“Working in the food service industry, it’s our job to make sure people have access to food. When I hear that someone, especially a child, has to go without food only one word comes to mind – unacceptable.” Viet went on to explain, “It’s a great feeling just knowing we are making a difference in the lives of these children and letting them know we care about them.”
Well said, Ray – and well done!
During my time at Catholic Charities in Terre Haute, I have been humbled by the wonderful people I see each day who give so much of themselves to serve those in need. Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank, a program of Catholic Charities, provides food assistance activities which serve a broad range of needs. Last year, through our partnership with 90 member agencies, we touched more than 34,000 people by providing over 2 million meals. We remain deeply concerned with the problems of family life, the aged, the sick, the troubled, and the poor – whose plight is often made worse by the current economic turmoil. Serving our community with love and dignity remains our steadfast commitment. This might best be demonstrated by our mobile food pantry program (see photo on the right), made possible this past year by grants from the Marine Corps League Joseph A. Bray Detachment, Land O’ Lakes Foundation and Ceres Solutions. These organizations have made it possible for more than 126,000 meals to reach more than 13 surrounding rural communities.
While many community agencies and faith–based organizations work hard to fill the gaps, we serve the poor and needy not because they are Catholic (most are not), but because the work of charity is integral to our faith. And yet, this level of charity cannot be accomplished by one group alone. That is why we are pleased to work with a diverse group of religious and non-religious organizations to fill the gaps in the lives of our hungry neighbors. An example of this partnership is our BackPack program. Started in 2009, the Foodbank has partnered with more than 12 different agencies to distribute more than 250,000 backpacks in Parke, Sullivan, Vigo and Vermillion counties. Throughout our service area we partner with agencies to distribute more than 1,000 each weekend. In this past year, a new partnership with Purdue Extension, Walmart Foundation, and Ben Franklin and Deming Elementary schools created more than 300 BackPacks being distributed each weekend to children who need access to food.
It is my sincere hope that Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank can further develop close partnerships with the greater community of west central Indiana. Together we can provide help through compassionate, competent, and basic need services to strengthen and support individuals, families, and communities based on the value and dignity of each person we serve – and expand those services to meet the challenges created by the ever-growing demand.
Each one of us can make a difference in our own way. Some have the resources to provide financial support, others have talents which they can share as a committed volunteer, and all of us can pray.
We must continue to ask the question, “How can I make a difference?” Once we answer the question…we need to act.
- John C. Etling
Photo caption (bottom photo): Tina Horrall, principal at Benjamin Franklin Elementary; Julie Hart, Vigo County Purdue Extension Director; Tom Kuhl, Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank director; Susan Mardis, principal at Deming Elementary; Wendy Keith, teacher and BackPack Coordinator at Deming Elementary; and Ashley Mobley, Assistant Manager at Walmart, show off some of the food children receive in BackPacks each Friday because of the grant through Walmart Foundation and Vigo County Extension.
As we approach the summer months, the Foodbank is recognizing the ever-increasing need throughout our seven counties to acquire food from various sources. Recently, the Foodbank accepted a donation from Wabash Valley Produce of 5,400 dozen eggs just in time for the Easter season. This excellent source of protein was eagerly accepted by our member agencies. While this generous donation greatly benefitted hungry individuals and families in our service area, this is just one source of many which help to serve those in need.
The food drive conducted through the Terre Haute Home Show in March brought in several thousand pounds of canned and boxed food from many generous patrons who attended the event. And the March Against Hunger food drive sponsored by Greg Zoeller, Indiana’s Attorney General, helped raised thousands of additional pounds of food. Funds raised at our annual Hog Roast this April held at Riley’s Conservation Club also allow us to purchase food to supplement our donations. In addition, we have our annual National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) food drive in May which we anticipate to bring in excess of 70,000 lbs. of various shelf-stable foods to stock our shelves.
Depending on the weather this year, we are looking forward to a bountiful harvest from the area farmers who always share their crops with us. Having a source of fresh produce in the warmer months is a blessing, not only for its nutritional value, but it is a welcome treat for most of our clients. Being able to provide a variety of the various food groups ensures those who are hungry have an opportunity to eat healthy, as well as to enjoy other comfort foods.
As we gather food from various sources, there is one common denominator at all times – the generosity of our community which contributes to placing meals on the table for those who need our help. We could not do what we do without the support from individuals, corporations, and businesses in our area. It is truly a team effort when it comes to putting food on the table for those going through difficult times.
If you need help finding food or know someone who does, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479). The Hunger Hotline is available Monday – Friday from 9am – 6pm. All calls are free and confidential. Help someone you know receive the nutrition they need to remain healthy and productive.
On Saturday, May 11, 2013, the USPS and Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank are teaming up to help stamp out hunger in our community – and you can help! Simply fill a bag with nutritious non-perishable food and leave it by your mailbox by 9am.
Here are some suggested items the Foodbank can always use:
Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank will make sure the collected non-perishable food items serve those in need.
For more information or to volunteer during the Food Drive, please call (812)235-3424.
Bethany House Soup Kitchen, a Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank member agency, received a $30,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation to provide a full year of meals and emergency food.
“This generous grant from Walmart allows Bethany House to continue serving nutritious meals each day and provide fresh produce, breads and baked goods for people to eat at home through its Deli Days program and emergency food baskets. We could not be more grateful to continue giving to those that need it most,” said Dottye Crippen, program director at Bethany House.
Bethany House provides daily meals to individuals in need. In addition to preparing and serving meals, they offer Deli Days on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Deli Days provides fresh produce, breads, baked goods and deli meats and sandwiches to families in need.
“Bethany House Soup Kitchen is unique within our communities since it is open every day of the year, serving meals on Sundays, holidays, and even during snow and ice storms,” John Etling, agency director, Catholic Charities said.
Hunger in Indiana forces some Hoosiers to make decisions between other life necessities and healthy food. A 2010 study conducted by Feeding America shows how Indiana’s hungry have to make those decisions:
“Walmart’s community involvement is based on the philosophy of operating globally and giving back locally. In our experience, we can do the most good by supporting issues and causes that are important to our customers and associates in their own neighborhoods,” said Russ Koenig, Walmart market manager for west-central Indiana.
The contribution to Bethany House Soup Kitchen program was made possible through the Walmart Foundation’s Indiana State Giving Program and is part of the Foundation’s historic pledge of $2 billion through year 2015 to help the hungry in America.
Photo caption: Bob Waelbroeck, Agency Council president for Catholic Charities, and John Etling agency director for Catholic Charities, receive a $30,000 grant from Russ Koenig, Walmart market manager for west central Indiana.