Matching gifts nourish Franciscan Health’s food insecurity effort

Matching gifts nourish Franciscan Health’s food insecurity effort

HAMMOND, Indiana | Franciscan Health will expand its effort to address food insecurity during the coming year, thanks to a matching gift challenge, which raised $100,000 for the Franciscan Health Foundation.

Franciscan Health launched its drive to combat food insecurity plaguing Northwest Indiana, collaborating last year with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana and the School City of Hammond to provide healthy food boxes for vulnerable families. To increase outreach, Mobile Food Markets serve an average of 100 families each month in the Franciscan Health Hammond hospital parking lot.

In Michigan City, a partnership with the Salvation Army created a Food Prescription Program two years ago to address diabetes, helping patients change their diet and lifestyle to lower their hemoglobin A1C, which measures blood sugar and is a risk factor for prediabetes.

Later this year, Franciscan Health will expand its Food Insecurity Program by creating a “Healthy Food Bodega” at Franciscan Health Hammond. Certified through the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, this healthy food pantry will provide both food and education, emphasizing the importance of a healthy diet.

Tom Sourlis and his wife, Susan Eleuterio, learned of Franciscan’s efforts in 2020 due to their passion for finding solutions to the food insecurity crisis. They generously agreed to become philanthropic partners through a five-year, $5,000 per year, $25,000 pledge.

The couple took their support to a new level on November 4, 2021 in the form of a matching gift challenge.  Sourlis told Rick Peltier, Franciscan Health Foundation executive director, that if he could generate $25,000 in gifts by the end of the year, they would match the Foundation’s efforts with a $25,000 check of their own.

Inspired by the challenge, the Foundation raised $66,000 in charitable contributions from 31 donors, including Franciscan leaders, physicians, board members and community partners. The Franciscan Health Dyer/Hammond/Munster Hospitals Medical Executive Committee gave a $10,000 lead gift. Impressed with the support, Sourlis and Eleuterio increased their matching gift to $34,000, giving the Foundation a total of $100,000 raised for the challenge in just two months.

“We are delighted that this challenge to support efforts to make healthy food easily accessible to NWI residents has succeeded. We are excited to be able to help this innovative approach by providing healthy resources and alleviating hunger in our community,” said Sourlis and Eleuterio in a statement.

“Tom and Susan have generous philanthropic hearts. They are committed to creating transformational change for the most vulnerable throughout Northwest Indiana. This commitment fueled the success of their matching gift challenge. I am truly thankful for their partnership and for the incredible impact and support exhibited by everyone who helped us surpass our goal.  As a result, we will be able to feed more hungry children and families in the Region,” Peltier said.

Peltier welcomes additional help to combat food insecurity in the Region, noting numbers that show the need. Seventeen percent of local households with children and 13 percent without children are food insecure. Approximately 43,000 children in Lake County were recipients of the free or reduced cost lunch program. Food insecurity leads to developmental delays in children and a higher rate of chronic illness in adults.

To join the effort to combat food insecurity, call the Franciscan Health Foundation at (219) 661-3401 or make a gift online at