One month ago, the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana was issued a challenge, inspired by the generosity of civic leaders Tom Sourlis and Sue Eleuterio. Charged to raise matching funds of $125,000, the Food Bank reached out the NW Indiana community for help.
Knowing the impact that these funds would have on struggling neighbors during this critical time, citizens responded, helping to far exceed the goal, the community responded, and the organization raised more than $240,000 towards the “Community Strong Emergency Relief Match,” nearly double Tom and Sue’s challenge amount.
Combined, the total amount provides 1,095,000 meals. And the timing could not be better, as the demand for food assistance continues to climb.
The organization said the current crisis has expanded the face of hunger and created a new demand from various sectors of society. The alarming rate of unemployment claims reflects the countless workers who have been laid off or furloughed for an unspecified amount of time. Its organizers said it is in a better position to help. The number of people served and the number of pounds distributed have both increased by about 50 percent.
The Food Bank of NW Indiana has been able to hire additional staff and purchased more delivery trucks.
The organization said it has added new programming and formed new partnerships, and it is not yet done. For as long as needed, the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana will continue to increase its capacity to adequately respond to the needs of its neighbors — so that food is one less worry.
The organization said many Gary residents who were employed lived paycheck to paycheck, so the shutdown and unemployment crisis has led to a run on the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana.
The Food Bank’s CEO, Victor Garcia, says it is not able to get the donations from grocery stores it usually receives, but wholesalers and restaurants have stepped up. It is being staffed by full-time workers and about two dozen members of Indiana’s National Guard, as the facility has rushed to keep up with the demand.
“In January, for the entire month, we served around 6,500 individuals,” Garcia told WTTW Channel 11.
“The first two weeks of April, we’ve served over 11,000. So we’ve seen a marked increase, and that doesn’t even take into account our partner agencies that are doing the lions’ share of supplying food to our community.”