Serving the Hungry - Fall 2017 Newsletter

Life Gets Harder for West Central Indiana’s Hungry

ChildrenMap the Meal Gap 2017, the latest report by Feeding America® on food insecurity and the cost of food at both the county and congressional district level, reveals that food insecurity exists in every county in the Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank’s service area. Overall food insecurity ranges from a low of 13.4% of the population in Clay County up to 17.4% in Vigo County.

The national average food insecurity rate across all counties is 14%. The study also finds that people currently facing hunger are likely falling further behind as they continue to struggle to buy enough food to meet their needs. Food-insecure individuals now face, on average, a food budget shortfall of $15.34 per person each week, up from $14.91 last year.

“In west central Indiana, on average, one in six individuals is food insecure. But, what’s worse is that one in five (21.4%) children under the age of 18 is food insecure – they don’t have adequate access to enough nutritious food to lead a healthy lifestyle,” stated John C. Etling, Agency Director for Catholic Charities. “When it comes to the subject of hunger, the sad reality for so many young and old alike is that a reliable source of food on a daily basis is sometimes not available to them. As much as we try to reach out and provide help we too fall short, but make no mistake, we will not stop trying to feed the hungry!”

ChartTerre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank is one of 200 food banks in the Feeding America network that collectively provides food assistance to 46 million Americans struggling with hunger. Through a network of 90 soup kitchens, food pantries, senior centers, youth centers, and other charitable agencies, Terre Haute Catholic Charities Foodbank collects, warehouses, and distributes the equivalent of 2.5 million meals annually to more than 32,000 individuals.

“It is disheartening to realize that millions of hardworking, low-income Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to feed themselves and their families at the same time that our economy is showing many signs of improvement, including a substantial decline in the number of people who are unemployed,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America. “This study underscores the need for strong federal nutrition programs as well as the importance of charitable food assistance programs, especially the food pantries and meal programs served by the Feeding America network of food banks.”

Map the Meal Gap 2017 uses data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and food price data and analysis provided by Nielsen (NYSE: NLSN), a global provider of information and insights. The study is supported by founding sponsor The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Conagra Brands Foundation and Nielsen.

Key local findings:

  • 40,210 individuals living in west central Indiana are food insecure. Of those, 12,000 are children under the age of 18.
  • Across the state of Indiana, Vigo County has the third highest food insecurity rate of 17.4% behind Marion County (18.4%) and Monroe County (17.8%)

Dr. Craig Gundersen, Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, Executive Director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and a member of Feeding America’s Technical Advisory Group is the lead researcher of Map the Meal Gap 2017.

A summary of the findings, an interactive map of the United States, and the full report are available at

Join the conversation about Map the Meal Gap 2017 on Twitter using #MealGap.

A Word from the Agency Director

FamilyDear Friends,

We’ve all probably heard at some time in our upbringing that we live in the greatest country in the world. I agree. There is likely nowhere else on this planet that you can live and expect the freedoms we are afforded. Because we have been blessed with much, so much is then expected of us as well.

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says have been given to all human beings by their Creator, and which governments are created to protect.[1]

Of course many of us might find it easy enough to understand the meaning of life and liberty, however, the pursuit of happiness can be something quite different for each of us. It is most certainly difficult to imagine how we can ever go forward in this effort without having our basic needs met and food – as well as the access to food – is surely a basic need.

Map the Meal Gap

If we are to make the pursuit of happiness a reality for everyone we must look at our daily needs, those needs that allow us to reach our potential. The Map the Meal Gap project is a comprehensive look into the nature of our nation, its citizens
and food insecurity. For our Feeding America national partners this information helps us shape policy and advocate for programs that can create stability for families in need. At a local level this data can help us place more emphasis on those communities and neighborhoods where the need is greatest. Historically, all of our service area counties demonstrate a percentage of families above the state and national average for food insecurity.

Your help is needed now more than ever! September is Hunger Action Month. I want to invite you to visit our website at and learn more about what you can do every day to help reduce hunger. Because when you provide help you have the opportunity to create hope and that is how we will someday bridge the gap of hunger.

Your Brother in Christ,

John C. Etling
Agency Director

Share your time and talent with us as a Foodbank volunteer! Call 812-232-1447.

Skills to Succeed

Woman with cakesRecently, Catholic Charities in Terre Haute was
awarded a Walmart State Giving Grant totaling $65,000. That, along with funding through the Catholic Community Foundation and Catholic Relief Services, is being used to create a Food Service and Food Safety Training Program. The goal of this program is to provide job training for adult learners wishing to enter the workforce while simultaneously providing approximately 41,975 meals to feed hungry individuals at the Soup Kitchen. The program provides low income and unemployed individuals the opportunity to learn food service skills such as food preparation and cooking, food safety through ServSafe, skills to be wait staff, and managerial skills such as scheduling, menus and food inventory.

“I can’t tell you how many times my dad would tell me that the highest number of jobs in Terre Haute exist within the food service industry,” reminisced Agency Director John C. Etling. “I believe he was right. We have such a variety of meal experience places in the Wabash Valley that we decided to reach out to one of our most responsive corporate donors and, with their funding, create the Food Service Training Program. This adult learning program is our way of furthering education and a path towards real employment.”

Woman with foodAn advisory committee made up of local volunteers, chefs and food service industry leaders met over several months to create a 12-week training program, which includes weekly skills demonstrations and ServSafe education along with hands-on kitchen experience. The weekly demonstrations and training modules are taught by local chefs while weekly menus are created to reinforce the skills learned. Each successful student is presented with a certificate of completion and special gifts to help him or her with their career. Best of all, Catholic Charities is offering this program free-of-charge to all accepted applicants.

Foodbank Program Director Charlie Potts is pleased with the program’s outcomes. “We are looking forward to continuing the program as a commitment to local workforce development. We are also looking forward to continuing to see the personal satisfaction that comes from our students starting something and seeing it through to completion.”

Need Help Finding Food?

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.

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