On Wednesday, the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana kicked off their Hunger Action Campaign at the Porter County Salvation Army to celebrate Hunger Action Month. This was the second event celebrating the campaign and the Food Bank’s goal of reaching over 1,000 Northwest Indiana residents in need of food assistance.
”We service Lake and Porter Counties and a great example of that is Hunger Action Month which takes place during the whole month of September,” said Traci Lotfi, Development Manager with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana.
“We’re trying to make access to healthy food easier, which is why Hunger Action Month and these types of distribution events are important to us,” Lotfi said. “Our goal is to help people that face food insecurity get access to healthy, good nutritious food. We recently started partnering with Best Buddies Pet Pantry, which is a way for us to insure that all residents, including the four legged ones, are getting fed in Northwest indiana.”
“We’re trying to fight the food desert and teach people to eat good, nutritious meals instead of something that they can get at the convenience stores. The Salvation Army has been really great in supplying the space for us to be able to come out and utilize their parking lot. They’re coming out to help and they do so much in helping to fight hunger and it’s important to partner with other organizations in the Region," she continued.
The Food Bank had volunteers and around 10 of their staff members out distributing chicken breasts, tomatoes, cans of corn, beans, and fresh seasonal produce among other items. The collaborative Hunger Action Month event between the Food Bank and the Salvation Army was the first of its kind, and Major John Welch, a Corps Officer with the Salvation Army, spoke about the effectiveness of the partnership.
“This is the first time that we’ve done a mobile pantry with the Food Bank,” Welch said. “It’s just a natural partnership. It’s part of our mission to not only feed the soul but to feed the body and the mind as well. We average about 100 people and families per week.”
Katey Childress, a Caseworker with the Salvation Army, echoed Welch’s thoughts saying, “it used to be around 20 families every week. Our food pantry has gone up 100%.”
According to Feeding America, the estimated ‘meal gap’ in Northwest Indiana is around 100,000 food insecure NWI residents and 55,000 kids on free and reduced lunch. To meet that need means that 17 million meals should be distributed a year. Right now the Food Bank is able to provide 4.5 million meals but that number is growing every year.
Also partnering with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana to kick off Hunger Action Month was Best Buddies Pet Pantry, which provides food for pets of families who may be struggling to put food on their own table.
“We help the same type of families,” said Don Plomann from Best Buddies Pet when reflecting on their work with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana and the Salvation Army. “When someone loses their job or you’re living check to check what happens? You should never lose an animal based on need for food.”
Best Buddies Pet Pantry started off at the YMCA in Chesterton and a small ad brought out 35 families to the first distribution. They’re now active in five counties in two states and through the help they receive they’re able to distribute 15K pounds of pet food every 30 days.
“Within two months we were at 120 families,” Plomann said. “We had no idea it would be this big. You can only draw so many people in the area that you’re in so we started to open in other locations and partner with organizations. It’s a great partnership with the Food Bank and each of us has the ability to grow. The more families we help the more excited we are.”
To find out more about Hunger Action Month and the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, visit their website at: https://foodbanknwi.org/.