It's Take Charge Thursday and this week we're talking about food.
Area organizations are making a strong effort to keep people fed, and that means there are now many different ways to get help if you need it.
In fact, service organizations say even if you looked for help a few months ago and didn't have much luck, the story has likely changed.
Folks like the United Way are really focusing on the food issue in our area, and are finding ways to keep up with the growing need.
“When I first started here we were out of food,” said Mike Hayes with the Penn Township Food Pantry.
That was about 9 months ago, when the food pantry had the same problem as everyone else.
“The economy worsens, and then of course we pick up. We've had a 62% increase (in traffic) at this food pantry since September of 2008,” Hayes said.
Fortunately, they got some major help from a fund drive appropriately named, "People Gotta Eat."
“It became very clear that more money was needed in the community, and we set up a goal that we surpassed. Right now we're almost up to having raised $300,000,” said Karen Sommers with the United Way of St. Joseph County, who was an organizer for the People Gotta Eat campaign.
While that money is helping keep food pantry shelves stocked all across St. Joseph County, hard-hit Elkhart County got a helping hand of their own.
“It came at the right time,” said Linda Rothrock with Harvest Basket in Elkhart.
Harvest Basket, which provides for senior citizens and the disabled, is one of many food pantries that got a cut of more than $100,000 that came unexpectedly through the stimulus plan.
“That directly impacts their ability to live independently on a fixed income and still pay utilities, the price of gas, and everything that goes along with living,” Rothrock said.
“When people say, ‘Gosh what has the stimulus package done here in Elkhart County?’ Well, some of your neighbors have food now, some of your neighbors are staying in their homes, some of your neighbors have electricity. They’re able to turn on the lights when they come home from work tonight,” said Darren Bickel with the United Way of Elkhart County.
These service organizations say if you need help, you should ask for it as soon as possible.
“Imagining a child looking up at their parent and saying ‘I’m hungry.’ Then the horror of that parent, ‘I don’t have anything to feed this kid.’ There's no need for that, we've got it,” Hayes said.
Meantime, what help you're eligible for largely depends on your situation; things like where you live and how much money you make.
The United Way urges you to call their 2-1-1 hotline to help put you on the right path.
Meantime, another way to save some money this summer; most local school districts are running the federal summer lunch program.
It provides free lunch and breakfast; and is available to anyone under the age of 18.
Follow the links below to lists of the schedules and feeding sites for many local schools.