'People should not be going to bed hungry'

Helping the hungry: Jack Meany, who is working to help fill the gaps in food banks and soup kitchens throughout town, filled in the Bread for the World group Monday night on efforts by the 12 Points/Northside Brown Bag program. Tribune-Star/Austen Leake

Residents of two Terre Haute Housing Authority units on the city's north side are benefiting from a program that delivers lunch two days a week.

The program has grown during the past two years, thanks to sponsorships from area churches, and it now serves 65 people. Organizers are seeking additional support to reach more residents.

Jack Meany, retired Tribune-Star publisher, briefed the Terre Haute chapter of Bread for the World about the program Monday night. He said the 12 Points/Northside Brown Bag had its roots a few years ago upon the closure of several Catholic churches in Vigo and Vermilion counties.

“We formed … an outreach commission to try and make sure that we didn't lose some of the outreach that these people were doing,” Meany said.

Providing food was the most important need cited in surveys, he said. Research found that while there were soup kitchens in the community there was “almost nothing” north of Wabash Avenue, he said. “People should not be going to bed hungry.”

Further study found it would be more efficient to bring food to residents, he said, and the program was launched at Garfield Towers in June 2016. Warren Village on 25th Street, located in what is sometimes referred to as a food desert because of its distance from grocery stores, was added in early 2017.

Thanks to Catholic Charities Food Bank, the program is able to provide lunches for about $1 each, half the cost it might otherwise face. Area farmers are also generous with seasonal produce.

The lunches consist of bologna and cheese sandwiches, produce when available, fruit cups, a dessert and a can of soup, which often serves as an evening meal for recipients.

Four volunteers prepare the lunches in the kitchen of Garfield Towers, and two men serve as “runners” to deliver to Warren Village.

“They're having fun and they enjoy doing it,” Meany said of the volunteers.

“And there's a camaraderie between the … recipients and the volunteers,” Meany's wife, Kathleen, added. “They develop a relationship. They know you by name so it's more than just lunch.”

Jack Meany also likes his role in leading the effort.

“I don't play golf; this is my game, and I enjoy doing it,” he said.

The ecumenical outreach provides lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays, supplementing a senior nutrition program operated by Area Seven Agency on Aging on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“Probably the thing that we should be looking to is what can we be doing outside of these two places,” Meany said. “Certainly there are people in those neighborhoods that could use this help as well.”

Anyone interested in helping with shopping, preparing or delivering lunches, or helping the outreach financially, can contact current volunteers at karen.goel@gmail.copm or rosalinesecerest@gmail.com.

Meany spoke at United Campus Ministries on the Indiana State University campus, a building that itself houses a food pantry for area college students.

Bread for the World is concerned about potential cuts to federal nutrition programs and plans an annual “offering of letters” to Congress. Last year, 15 churches participated in the letter-writing campaign, and this year, “we want to have as many as possible,” said Dorothy Drummond, Terre Haute chapter coordinator.

At least 16 percent of Terre Haute residents, and 20 percent of children, are considered food challenged, Drummond noted.

“We want to make sure government aid to food banks is not cut,” she said.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program faces a possible $214 billion cut over 10 years under President Trump. Also, the Department of Agriculture is considering providing box lunches instead of allowing recipients to choose their own food, and the school lunch program is up for “careful surveillance,” Drummond said.

Dave Taylor can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dave.taylor@tribstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarDave.

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