NAPPANEE — Today, 12% of residents in Elkhart County are considered to be food insecure – that’s 23,510 individuals who don’t have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.
One in eight people in that county lives every day with hunger as a constant companion.
ACT Nappanee-Wakarusa announces its exploration of this community issue as the topic of its May 13 public service open-to-all Zoom meeting.
Among the speakers at this meeting who are leaders of county and local organizations working to alleviate this situation will be Mark Mikel and Todd Zeltwanger.
Mikel, executive director of Nappanee-based The Center, will discuss how FCDC (Family Christian Development Center) has become the focal point for food access by families in need in the Wa-Nee School District. In 2020, The Center served 6,727 individuals from 2,189 households. The Center gave out 118,114 grocery items and provided more than 3,700 backpacks with meals to schoolchildren to feed them on weekends. Mikel, a resident of Wakarusa, has overseen daily operations at The Center since 2014.
“There are many causes of food insecurity, including unemployment, low wages, unstable or unaffordable housing, rising medical costs, and lack of reliable transportation,” Mikel said. “Regardless of the causes, we have a social and humane obligation to do what we can to coordinate community and government resources to meet the nutritional needs of our neighbors.”
Zeltwanger, director of Fund Development for Cultivate Food Rescue, will discuss how this nonprofit rescues excess food and repurposes it into healthy, nutritious meals for food-insecure children in local elementary school systems. Each week the group delivers six meals in backpacks in order to meet the weekend nutrition needs of food-insecure children. Currently, they provision 800 students, providing a total of 4,800 meals a week, using the 100,000 pounds of food rescued monthly. Zeltwanger is a resident of Bremen. He joined Cultivate in 2019 to bring his expertise in development and fundraising to the organization.
Cultivate benefits from the efforts of Meat Hunger, which was started in St Joseph County in 2017 by twins Noah and Emily Zimmer when they were seniors in high school and involved in 4-H animal projects. Noah Zimmer, now a junior at Indiana University, will discuss how this program works. In 2020, they provided 86,000 servings of protein from 21,500 pounds of donated meat.
Wrapping up the program is Charles Lanham, owner of Panther Pizza in Nappanee, who donates unsold food. Charles will discuss how the local food service industry can easily get involved in helping to alleviate the food insecurity problem.
This free Zoom meeting is open to everyone. To obtain the sign-in information, contact [email protected]. At this email address, you can also submit questions for the speakers to answer at the end of the presentations.