The Dairy Industry’s Immigration Problem

By Data | Indiana • May 24th, 2017

The Dairy Industry’s Immigration Problem

By Cassidy McDonald
and Janet Stengle

Doug Leman was born in Francesville, Indiana, and he expects to die in Francesville, Indiana. His family has lived in Francesville for three generations: His parents were dairy farmers. And so were their parents — and their parents’ parents.

Naturally, Leman became a dairy farmer, too. His four sons grew up helping with his 800-cow herd and he planned to pass the farm on to them.

“Our goal was to build something so our sons would have a future,” he said.

But six years ago, Leman made what he said was the toughest decision of his life: He said goodbye to his eight employees and sold the farm in northwest Indiana. He handed over his keys at midnight, and another farmer was in charge by sunrise.

After Doug Leman (left) sold his farm, he became executive director of Indiana Dairy Producers, a job that allows him to visit farms often. Brian Houin (right) owns Homestead Dairy. (Photo/Cassidy McDonald)

And just like that, Leman ended a line of four generations of dairy farmers.

His reason? He couldn’t make enough money to stay afloat. (Americans don’t drink as much milk as they used to.) He also had trouble finding reliable labor. The turnover for hiring and training local farmhands was too rapid, and subsequently blew his budget. Most of his workers were from Mexico.

“It’s not a glamorous job,” he said. “Dairying goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week … [Immigrants] are doing the jobs that nobody wants to do.”

For small farms in particular, profit margins are slim, and demand for milk is on the decline. Immigrant labor accounts for 51 percent of all dairy labor, and dairies that employ immigrant labor produce 79 percent of America’s milk supply, according to a 2015 Texas A&M report.

Homestead Dairy’s newest members smile for the camera. (Photo/Cassidy McDonald)

If the country were to eliminate immigrant labor entirely, the Texas A&M report found, the United States would lose an estimated $32.1 billion in output, and retail milk prices would increase about 90 percent, meaning a typical $2.50 gallon of milk would cost $4.75.)

Leman said his immigrant workers have been like family to him. He worked with one man who had just arrived from Mexico with a 6-month-old son. Years later, when his son turned 16 and his friends began to get their driver’s licenses, he couldn’t. He wasn’t a citizen.

Leman was unsettled. “This is the only home he’s ever known,” he said. “These are human issues.”

Now, Leman is the executive director of Indiana Dairy Producers, an organization that unites the state’s dairy farmers. He says the industry, all over the state, is in economic trouble.

Conventionally-milked new moms chew on feed. (Photo/Cassidy McDonald)

“Our dairy producers are sucking air again,” he said.“I think the climate is about the same as it has always been,” Rosenow said. “I’m always really concerned. One of the things I worry about the most is immigration.”

Leman is in favor of allowing more immigrants to legally work on farms. He considers himself a “frustrated Republican” when it comes to immigration policies, and he says the national conversation underestimates the complexity of the issue.

“Let’s let them come out of the shadows and become really involved community members — and they will be,” Leman said. “They want to just be normal human beings and be treated like that.”

Brian Houin stands in one of his four robotic milking stations. (Photo by Cassidy McDonald)

Despite the increased focus on President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, immigration issues in the dairy industry are nothing new. John Rosenow is a Wisconsin farmer with 1,000 cows and 20 employees — 10 of whom are Mexican immigrants.

He says his employees have all shown him official documents, but he’s still afraid immigration authorities will find errors in the papers and deport his workers. If that were to happen, he said, “I’d go out of business, because I won’t have people to milk the cows — and if I don’t have people to milk the cows, I can’t exist.”

Rosenow advocates the expansion of the H-2A visa program to the dairy industry. Currently, fruit and vegetable farms that hire seasonal workers can utilize the H-2A visa program. But dairy farms operate year-round, and cannot use those visas.

360 view: Robotic milking station.

Cows are milked three times a day in the conventional barn. (Photo/CassidyMcDonald)

The H-2A Improvement Act, however, has been introduced to the Senate, and would allow foreign dairy workers to live in the US for an initial three-year period.“That’s an ongoing issue that should inform the discussions we have today about a farm labor problem,” Graff said.

But not everyone believes this is the best arrangement. Dan Graff, a history professor and director of the Higgins Labor Program at Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, says that farming has historically relied on low-wage, immigrant labor. When federal government began writing worker protection laws in the 1930s, southern Democrats agreed to support the laws if farm and domestic workers — primarily African-Americans and Mexican-Americans — were excluded from the provisions.

Dairy farm workers are paid an average wage of $11.54 per hour, according to the Texas A&M report, and Rosenow said he pays his workers over $40,000 per year with housing.

“We sort of lock ourselves into these economic arrangements where we then tend to think that they’re inevitable,” Graff said. “If you take one step back and say, well, we have a system where the labor force is highly vulnerable and underpaid… maybe we should rethink that whole sector if it has to rely on it that way.”

Leman believes the future of the industry lies with innovative farms like Homestead Dairy, a 4,000-cow operation in Plymouth, Indiana that houses the world’s largest robotic milker.

Homestead’s owner, Brian Houin, is obsessed with data. His cows wear ankle trackers, which Houin said function like Fitbits. Each calf is genetically tested at birth and the herd’s every move is stored on an app that Houin checks constantly.

But Homestead is an outlier in the dairy industry, well ahead of the technological curve. Houin’s efforts have yielded major cost savings that other dairies may never be able to access.

Leman, it seems, was forced to rethink the farm as a viable source of family income. Leman’s four sons now have steady jobs and are making more money than they ever would have on a farm, he said — a bittersweet outcome.

“It’s great, but it’s sad,” he said. “My youngest grandkids don’t really even know what a cow is.”

Touring Indiana’s Underground Railroad

By Erin Lattimer and Hannah Scherer • May 16th, 2017

Brother Sage photo

On the porch of his South Bend home, Verge “Brother Sage” Gillam shares the history he’s worked a long time to document. (Photo/Hannah Scherer)

On the far east side of Notre Dame’s campus lies the Thomas Bulla Farmhouse and surrounding Bulla Road. While students drive the latter frequently, the former is hardly mentioned, visited, or recognized, despite both structures’ namesake acting as a major abolitionist in the era of the Underground Railroad.

The University of Notre Dame has a major part of history on its campus, and it’s largely bypassed by the casual observer.

Even some Notre Dame students in the History Department say they have little to no knowledge regarding the area’s history related to the Underground Railroad.

Senior history major Joe DeLuca said believes local history is essential for the greater understanding of a culture.

“If you look at a lot of the smaller scale stuff, it can really flesh out the story a lot more,” he said. “Entire sections of history would have been lost.”

Notre Dame is not the only location in the now Michiana or even Indiana region that contains rich details of Underground Railroad history. Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as well as The National Park Service have worked to create a comprehensive registry of Indiana’s Underground Railroad locations and features of several Indiana regions.

Southern Indiana features the Eleutherian College Classroom and Chapel Building and the Georgetown Neighborhood in Madison, Indiana. Serving as a museum today, Eleutherian College was symbolically built on top of a hill. Its own museum web page states that Eleutherian decided this to demonstrate its commitment to “individual equality, education, and equal opportunity without regard to race or gender.”

Many fugitives who traveled along this route continued north via Indianapolis. The Georgetown Neighborhood in Madison, Indiana––right on the southernmost border––was at one point populated with abolitionists and freedom seekers. Even today, the Indiana DNR states many of the original homes and churches from the Underground Railroad era still stand in this neighborhood. This includes Lyman and Asenath Hoyt, who would hide fugitives in their family barn loft or cave on their Madison, Indiana, property between 1830 and 1856.

In the central part of the state, the Bethel AME Church and the Levi Coffin House once served as Underground Railroad locations. Before it was sold to a private firm in 2016, the Bethel AME Church in downtown Indianapolis was known as the “Indianapolis Station” after it was founded in 1836, but was rebuilt in 1867. The Levi Coffin House located near Richmond, Indiana, also played a significant role in African American slaves’ paths to the north during this time, reportedly assisting over 2,000 slaves to freedom.

Before crossing the border into Michigan, thousands of African American fugitives finally traveled through various areas of northern Indiana. The DNR states that just south of the Michigan border and on the shores of Lake Michigan, Daniel Low helped fugitives escape to Michigan or Canada by bringing them from his estate and hiding them on board grain boats at the Michigan City harbor.

“It’s kind of skewed; there were a few routes. [They] came through Michigan city, [some] into Niles, and some came through a part of Indiana that lead into Bristol that then went into Michigan,” local historian Verge “Brother Sage” Gillam said. “There was no specific route like 31 or 933. It was really interesting, because to get away [from this area] we had to do whatever was Kosher, and we knew that Indiana was not a safe state.”

Blue map pin iconStoryMap: Tour Indiana’s Underground Railroad sites

To the east in Fremont, Indiana, at the Erastus Farnham House, the historic cupola on top of the house served as a watchdog vantage point in order to keep the fugitives he aided safe. Only about 13 miles west is the house of Captain Samuel Barry who, despite being arrested for his actions, frequently provided shelter to fugitive slaves.

Still close by in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, the Alexander T Rankin house is, per the Indiana DNR, currently the only known structure still standing in Ft. Wayne that was a part of the Underground Railroad. Likewise, as previously noted, Notre Dame’s Thomas Bulla House was where Bulla and his family aided runaway slaves and still stands amongst residential living buildings on the campus.

Brother Sage has spent the last 10 years putting together the story of the Underground Railroad’s presence in the Northwest Territory, more specifically the St. Joe Valley Region.

This area, what is now northwestern Indiana and southwestern Michigan, saw the passage of tens of thousands of slaves from slave territory to the free land. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that the No. 1 region for runaway slaves was the Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri region… to think that 75,000 people escaped that particular region is so awe-inspiring. These stories need to be told,” Sage said.

South Bend also was home to plenty of abolition-era dramatics, with the South Bend Presbyterian Church halting slave catchers from removing runaways from free-Michigan back to slave-Kentucky.

“[The church] went to court and won their suit, and the slaves went back to Michigan,” Sage said. “The slave catchers went back to Kent, complained about it, came back to South Bend and sued that church. [They] ended up winning that suit. We’d like to put a historical marker [at the church] because that history is well documented.”

But auction-block documents printed by what is now known as the South Bend Tribune have also been discovered. These flyers advertise the sale of Michiana-area men, women and children, cementing the fact that the oppression was local. “This just goes to show how rough it was on us, what kinds of things we had to go through [in this area], and why it’s important for us to talk more about this from the standpoint of whoever you are,” he said.

Sage stressed the necessity to rectify an ignorance of history by sharing these stories and this knowledge through education and traditional schooling. While information on these historical locations is becoming more available through online registries, Indiana’s regional history in terms of the Underground Railroad has not shown to be well-known. “They don’t know what we had to go through in order to be free, they don’t know anything about the real bigotry or prejudice we went through, or they don’t know anything about the history [of the Underground Railroad,]” Sage said.

Lacking such pertinent historical information takes away part of a community’s culture. This causes the loss of a potential lesson learned, or an honorable historical connection. “[The Thomas Bulla House] can be a source of pride for the community and the people who live here that we played a significant role in helping free slaves, not mentioning it is a very interesting topic of discussion around campus,” Lew said.

“None of this is in the schools; you probably heard nothing about these details in high school or even at the University of Notre Dame,” Sage said. “More emphasis should be put into this, because I think we’re a remarkable people, and we’ve shown how to survive the Holocaust of enslavement.”

Underground RR Infographic

The Gender Gap in South Bend High School Basketball Programs? Scheduling

By Cassidy McDonald and Grace Watkins • May 15th, 2017

Morgan Frasier photo

Clay High School sophomore forward Morgan Frasier said her favorite aspect of basketball is how it allows for constant improvement. (Photo/Cassidy McDonald)

In 2009, an Indiana girls basketball coach sued over Franklin County High School’s scheduling discrepancy: At the time, 95 percent of Franklin County boys basketball games took place in “prime time” (Friday and Saturday nights and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving), compared with just 53 percent of girls games.

The coach, Amber Parker, won her lawsuit against the Indiana High School Athletic Association in 2012. The courts ruled that this scheduling discrepancy was a violation of Title IX. But analysis of recent scheduling data show that little has changed since that ruling took place a half decade ago.

Title IX is a statute originally sponsored by then-U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Indiana) and signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972. It requires that no person experience exclusion “from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” on the basis of their sex. For high school sports, this means that boys teams should not receive more money or resources than girls teams.

bluestopwatchiconTimeline: A brief history of Title IX and high school sports

High schools have been slow to comply with Title IX. Kirby Whitacre, director of athletics for the South Bend Community School Corporation, said that at the time of the Parker case, “there was huge inequity in basketball scheduling.”

The corporation voted in the 2014-15 school year to adopt an equitable scheduling standard by 2016 in response to the Parker ruling. Since then, Whitacre said, athletic directors have become more educated about Title IX and schools have made plans to hire more female athletic directors. Their very presence reminds decision-makers about the importance of women’s athletics, Whitacre said.

How much has basketball scheduling in local South Bend high schools actually changed since the Parker case eight years ago?

A data analysis of five local high schools’ basketball programs reveals that eight out of 10 varsity and JV teams in the area still schedule boys’ games more often during prime-time spots — Fridays and Saturdays — compared to weeknight matchups. Two teams had evenly scheduled prime-time spots.

The analysis was based on the online schedule for each school, which represents the way games were initially planned — though games may have later been rescheduled due to weather or emergency, according to the South Bend School Corporation.

Each of the five schools, on average, gave boys more prime-time spots than girls. The average amount of scheduling disparity between girls and boys teams was 12.4 percent across the five schools. For comparison, the average bias present in Franklin County high schools at the time of the 2012 Parker case was 42 percent.

When presented with the findings of the data analysis, Whitacre said he was surprised. He said he would have guessed there was less than a 10 percent disparity in scheduling between boys and girls teams.

Whitacre noted that boys games bring in more revenue, and that scheduling decisions in the past were “absolutely, absolutely, 100 percent driven by money.” He attributed the current disparity in South Bend schools, however, to inattention.

“In the old days it was deliberate,” he said. Today, “it’s not a deliberate attempt to ignore the law, but it’s sloppy record keeping … It’s lack of focus,” he said. Whitacre plans to bring the issue up with the athletic directors in the fall.

The school with the greatest disparity in varsity teams’ primetime game scheduling is Clay High School with a 24.2 percent difference between the girls and boys teams. The school with the least disparity out of the five varsity teams is Penn High School, where the teams were scheduled an equal amount of primetime games.

The school with the greatest JV disparity is Adams High School with a 25 percent difference. Riley High School had the least amount of scheduling disparity with equally scheduled JV primetime games. JV teams tend to have slightly greater disparity (2.92 percent on average) than varsity teams.

Kirby Whitacre suspects that the South Bend area is still more Title IX compliant relative to the rest of Indiana. “Rural schools are particularly bad because they are not challenged,” he said.

Sandra Walter, assistant commissioner for the Indiana High School Athletic Association, disputed Whitacre’s claim. “Rarely do we hear an issue with Title IX with respect to basketball scheduling,” she said. “There is no data to suggest that there is a difference between rural and city areas.”

The oral arguments heard in the 2012 Parker case explain why compliance is worth ensuring in the first place. The National Women’s Law Center, representing the female plaintiffs in the case, presented evidence that when girls games are pushed into the school week, female students face a greater academic burden — and battle feelings of inferiority when they can’t draw the large crowds the boys often do.

Avital Nathman, a freelance journalist who writes about Title IX and gender equality, said, “If boys at these schools — starting in junior high — get the sense that they are scheduled more weekend games than the girls teams, they’ll internalize that and the underpinned meaning associated with it: Boys teams are more important. Boys sports are more popular.”

Morgan Frasier, a sophomore guard on the varsity girls team at Clay High School, said she doesn’t notice a scheduling bias toward the boys team, but does notice that boys games are better attended.

“For girls,” she said, “it’s pretty much just parents.”

Mark Westendorp photo

Mark Westendorp, girls varsity head coach at Clay High School, said he hasn’t noticed a scheduling discrepancy. (Photo/Cassidy McDonald)

Frasier’s coach, Clay High School Girls Varsity Head Coach Mark Westendorp, also said he hasn’t been “super aware” of discrepancies in scheduling.

When it comes to game schedules, Westendorp prefers Friday nights. Fridays allow his team to eat well during the school day and arrive to the game energized, but the weekend also brings larger crowds.

“Friday is deemed as the prime time. That’s what you want in a high school sport,” he said.

At Clay, the girls team played Friday games 13 percent less often than the boys team. Only four of the team’s 23 games were scheduled on a Friday compared to nine of the 30 boys games.

Game schedules are crafted by high school athletic directors. Washington High School Athletic Director Garland Hudson said about 30 percent of the games are pre-set by the conference, but the rest are coordinated between schools. Athletic directors will, for instance, look up available games on a certain date and schedule them through a software called ArbiterSports.

Hudson noted that his typical scheduling strategy involves placing girls games on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the boys are scheduled on Wednesdays and Fridays. While Washington splits Saturdays evenly between the genders, the boys were initially scheduled on Fridays about 11 percent more often than the girls.

This year, he said, games were rescheduled so that boys played seven Friday games and girls played six.

“You don’t want to always schedule boys on Friday night,” he said. “You look for ways to make sure you even the playing field.”

Jill Bodinger, Senior Associate Athletics Director at Notre Dame, remembers the effects of an uneven playing field. She witnessed serious scheduling inequities as a high school basketball player in the graduating class of 1987 at Valparaiso High School. This was before the 2012 Parker case ruled that Title IX applied to game scheduling.

“[I did] homework on a bus in the dark at 10 p.m. because we only played on weeknights,” she said.

Bodinger’s take on the current state of gender equity in high school sports?

“Still a ways to go,” she said.

She said she believes that the low-level scheduling bias in South Bend high schools does have an effect. She said inequitable scheduling — of any amount — not only equates to a lack of fans and an academic burden, but also tells female students that they are second-class citizens.

Gender equity in sports is especially crucial at the high school level. Already by the age of 14, girls are twice as likely to drop out of sports as boys. The top reasons why girls stop playing? A lack of access to facilities and a stigma associated with being athletic.

At 15th worst, Indiana ranks near the bottom of the country in terms of gender-equitable sports participation — that is, the gap between what percentage of girls and boys play sports in high school.

Frasier has been playing basketball since the fourth grade. Most of the time, she is too wrapped up in the game to pay attention to the lack of cheering fans. “When I play, I don’t really focus on the stands,” she said.

She only focuses on the game — a game that she likes for the way it promotes constant progress and constant improvement.

“If you put in a lot of work,” she said, “it’s easy to see how that work pays off.”

bluebookicon Read more: Indiana ranks low in high school sports gender equity

Alternative Long-Term Care Options Growing as State’s Nursing Home Ratings Sink

By Erin McAuliffe and Daniel O’Boyle • May 15th, 2017

The Milton Home in South Bend has been cited by Medicare 27 times in the last two years, including poor food preparation, substandard care giving, bedsores, infection control, subpar hiring practices and lack in protection from abuse, physical punishment and involuntary separation from others.

And the Milton Home is not an isolated case: According to Nursing Home Report Cards, 94 percent of nursing homes in Indiana had deficiencies in 2014, the most recent year the data were available.

Before the vote in 2015 to endorse a three-year moratorium on new nursing home licenses in Indiana counties with nursing home occupancy rates lower than 90 percent, Indiana nursing homes sat at an average 76 percent occupancy rate with more than 12,000 empty beds, according to according to a December 2014 report from the state’s Family and Social Services Administration.

The state was given an “F” rating in both 2014 and 2015 by Nursing Home Report Cards.

According to Medicare, the most rampant nursing home deficiencies in South Bend currently involve the screening, hiring and training of staff, infection and bed sore prevention, accident hazards and safe food preparation.

Jack Mueller, chief operating officer at Holy Cross Village, a nursing home and senior living community located near Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame campuses, spoke to the prevalence of nursing home deficiencies in South Bend leading to its low national ranking.

“Everybody has stuff they can work on,” Mueller said. “[Food preparation] is always the big one, always number one on the hit list … I’ve been doing this for 30-some years, I don’t know if [nursing homes] just haven’t gotten better at that or what, but it seems to be one that reoccurs every year.”

On the topic of inadequate staffing, Mueller stressed that homes need to be careful throughout the hiring process.

“That shouldn’t happen, but I know it does … Sometimes people aren’t careful about checking the references or the criminal history,” he said.

Mueller applauded the steps the Community Foundation of St. Joseph’s County has taken to improve nursing home quality, noting the collaboration fostered through the Foundation’s educational programs and funding for administrator round tables.

Angela Workman, program director for the Foundation, said she was impressed with the way administrators from competing homes were able to cooperate.

“It’s interesting because at first glance, from an outsider’s perspective, that group may define themselves as competitors,” Workman said. “So maybe they wouldn’t want to get together in a group and share ideas about what’s working and what’s not. But I definitely have not found that to be the case at all … those who have participated long-term have really valued the community of people and the support they can give to one another.

“We just want to come along with things that don’t feel like more work, but feel like things that would be valuable to them. We’re not interested in creating more work and making their lives more difficult — it’s already difficult.”

Nursing home dining area photo

The kitchen area at Holy Cross Village. Jack Mueller emphasized the prevalence of deficiencies in nursing home food preparation across the industry. (Photo/Erin McAuliffe)

Mueller added that there has also been a recent national push toward nursing home improvements, initiated by the Center for Medicare Services.

“There were new rules put into effect [by the Center for Medicare Services] in November that we’re working on right now,” Mueller said. “They’ve expanded the resident rights for people in nursing homes.”

Later stages of CMS implementations for nursing homes include requiring Quality Assurance & Performance Improvement and disaster plans from each home. These rules will affect nearly 1.5 million residents in the more than 15,000 long-term care facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to CMS. Mueller said the new regulations were the most significant changes to

These rules will affect nearly 1.5 million residents in the more than 15,000 long-term care facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to CMS. Mueller said the new regulations were the most significant changes to federal law surrounding long-term care since 1989. However, the moves may be too little too late as new options present opportunities for elderly people to live more independent lifestyles.

“We’re all scrambling for people, for clients,” Mueller said of South Bend’s nursing homes. “None of us are full.”

But that could soon change as a flood of Baby Boomers will pour into nursing homes over the next few decades. The amount of people in the United States over 65 years old will nearly double by 2050, according to the United States Census Bureau.

The trend toward assisted living is evident locally: Vermillion announced that it would build four assisted living complexes with one location in Mishawaka. Assisted living provides desired independence with a desired price tag: the average cost of a private room in an assisted living facility is $43,470, compared to $98,550 in a nursing home.

Assisted living will only become a more prevalent option with technologies like telemedicine and autonomous vehicles on the horizon.

Telemedicine, remote diagnosis and treatment of patients through telecommunications, is already practiced in South Bend. Indiana passed a telemedicine-focused law in July that made it legal for medical authorities to prescribe medication without an in-person visitation. In January, Beacon Health Systems launched a secure video doctor visit program to care for patients with minor ailments.

Mueller mentioned that CMS is currently pushing to have doctor visits done through telemedicine at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, noting its capabilities to save residents and staff expensive trips to the hospital.

Tim Balko, assistant professional specialist teaching Foresight in Business and Society at Notre Dame, said the trend has staying power.

“If you can reduce the amount of time that seniors take up in their day dealing with their health issues,” he said. “If you can take out some of that travel and time in-between with telemedicine, I think that’s going to balloon.”

Balko also predicted the industry-shifting effects autonomous vehicles could have on the elderly care industry, granting them the freedom to complete trips to the grocery without a valid license.

Currently, the most common reason elderly people enter nursing homes is some type of disability with activities of daily living, according to Health in Aging. Technologies that allow seniors to receive medical care at home and safely complete trips without driving delay the need for 24/7 assistance. Combine these trends with the rampant industry deficiencies and new assisted living facilities being built locally and the future doesn’t look so promising for nursing homes.

Workman worried about potential staffing crises nursing homes’ futures as the aging population increases, “That’s not even the question of quality, but having enough staff to take care of our community’s aging population.”

Have you or a family member experienced nursing home deficiencies first-hand? Please comment below.

Addressing the Drug Epidemic in St. Joseph County a Complex Task

By Teagan Dillon and Joe DiSipio • May 15th, 2017

Opiod panel photo

Becky Savage, Kristin Tawadros, Amy Cressy and Dave Wells speak to parents in the South Bend community. (Photo/Teagan Dillon)

Becky Savage stood in front of a screen displaying the beaming faces of her two sons Nick and Jack as she recounted the day in June 2015 that changed her life.

“I am a nurse and I am trained in saving people’s lives. That day, I could not perform my job as nurse, and I could not perform my job as a mom,” Savage recently told a room full of parents at St. Joseph High School.

Savage shared her story of immense loss: Her sons Nick and Jack died of an accidental drug overdose after attending a high school graduation party in Granger, Indiana, on June 14, 2015. The brothers had consumed a combination of alcohol and prescription painkiller oxycodone on the night they died.

The pair of hockey players were “smart kids with bright futures,” Savage said. And with one bad decision, her sons went from college kids to adding two more to the growing count of opiate-related deaths recorded both locally and nationwide.

America’s drug problem has been called an epidemic on the covers of national magazines and in local anti-drug forums such as the one Savage spoke at in April. St. Joseph County in Indiana has been no exception.

In 2015, deaths from overdoses in St. Joseph County reached 59, which outnumbered total deaths from homicides and fatal car crashes combined. That number has more than doubled since 2012, when 26 overdose fatalities were reported.

What is being done about it?

The St. Joseph County Drug Investigations Unit (DIU) was formed in January 2016 to address this rising drug epidemic. The DIU, led by Commander Dave Wells, is focused primarily on overdose fatalities and armed drug traffickers. The unit has been fully staffed and running since March 2016.

“Last year we had 58 deaths compared to 59 deaths, which is not a big change,” Wells said. “I’d like to see that down to zero.”

The DIU’s duty is not only to investigate, but to also inform and educate the public by talking to schools and parents about prescription drugs and signs of abuse.

St. Joseph County tallied 58 deaths due to drug overdoses in 2016, one less than in 2015. Of that number, 39.65 percent were caused by heroin overdoses, nearly ten percent less than the year before.

According to St. Joseph County Deputy Prosecutor Amy Cressy, South Bend drug dealers are increasingly turning to heroin because of accessibility and lower prices.

“We’re close to Chicago. We’re not that far from Detroit. People are coming up from Atlanta. We’re a hub city,” Cressy said. “And we’re a source for smaller communities. They trip up to South Bend to get heroin.”

But work has suggested that opioids in general are the biggest problem.

“Leaving a bottle of oxycodone, or a powerful painkiller, let’s say you had a surgery or something,” Wells said. “It’s just like leaving a loaded gun in your house.”

The DIU was specifically designed to handle the opioid epidemic in St. Joseph County, Wells said. The DIU’s goal is to target the people who deal those drugs and feed people’s addictions.

As drug abuse increases in St. Joseph County, treatment facilities are experiencing a significant increase in referrals and people being admitted into treatment, according to Kristin Tawadros, a psychologist at Oaklawn Psychiatric Center in South Bend.

“The legal system in South Bend is working on rehabilitation and not incarceration,” Tawadros said. “They want to avoid incarceration as much as possible and refer people to treatment instead.”

But facilities like Oaklawn lack the resources and funding to accommodate for the increasing number of referrals, said Tawadros.

“We can’t arrest our way out of all this. There’s people that obviously need therapy and need help with that,” Wells said. “Most people who use heroin, who use drugs are not typical criminals, they’re addicts.

“Education is the key. Right from the start. Getting to our kids.” As part of his role with the DIU, Wells speaks on the subject of drug abuse in the community as much as possible.

“I always say, we have a PowerPoint, we’ll travel. If you want us to come and do a presentation for your school, we’d love to come talk to your kids,” he said.

Wells and Cressy spoke following Savage’s story at Saint Joseph High School as part of one of their educational outreach events.

All three speakers drove home the same imperative message that necessary information about drugs and addiction must be shared and discussed.

“Have those conversations with your kids,” Savage said. “And have them again and again and again. You may annoy them, but that is far better than losing them forever.”

Under Pence and Buttigieg, South Bend sees mixed economic results

By Lucas Masin-Moyer and Juan Jose Rodriguez • May 15th, 2017


A view of downtown South Bend above the St. Joseph’s River. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

At the end of 2016, Mary Grace Sikorski was forced to close her restaurant, Spaghetti Joes on the west side of South Bend due to lack of business. A few months before Sikorski closed shop, Stephanie Mirza and her husband bought the Innisfree Bed and Breakfast just south of Spaghetti Joe’s and have seen massive success since taking over this past August.

Sikorski and Mirza’s business ventures reflect the mixed bag of economic development in South Bend under then-Governor, now Vice President Mike Pence, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg since the two were elected in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

The South Bend area, specifically, has been influenced by two major players outside of Pence and Buttigieg, whose roles in the economy weigh heavily into the region’s economic development.

“The Chamber of Commerce, they are working really hard to make South Bend a place for people to come and the visit South Bend people,” Mirza said. “There are just so many initiatives going on. And of course there is the university. Notre Dame has an orbit itself that brings people here, so there are kind of these two operating things that are more and more interacting together.”

Since 2013, the unemployment rate in South Bend has fallen from 10.5 percent to 4.8 percent, along with the rest of the state, where the unemployment rate fell from 8.4 percent to 4.1 percent.

This divergence in unemployment numbers, in which the state level is 0.7 percentage points below the city level, is representative of a greater trend across economic measures. The median income in of those living in St. Joseph’s County ($45,248) lags behind the state average of $50,532.

Dan Graff, a history professor at Notre Dame, attributes this discrepancy to the loss of industrial jobs in the area.

“You don’t talk to South Bend residents for very long and ask them about the economy and they don’t still bring up Studebaker,” he said. “ … [The plant] closed in the 60s and people are still talking about it. So it has been somewhat of a long-term problem. I think there’s been periods of hemorrhaging of industrial jobs in the wake of NAFTA in 1994.”

movie_play_blue2Animation: Google Earth timelapse showing the transformation of South Bend

This departure of the core of the economic sector led South Bend’s population to decline from its peak in 1960 of 132,445 to around 100,000 in 2010. This number, according to census estimates, has begun to rebound in recent years.

The mixture of positive signals (lower unemployment) and negative signals (lower median income and population decline) show the mixed nature of economic development in South Bend, a city where economic success is possible, yet far from a guarantee.

Economic Failure in South Bend

For Sikorski, the decision to pursue a lifelong dream of opening Spaghetti Joes was the result of a perfect blend of timing and desire.

“I was fed up with corporate America,” she said via an email interview. “After 15 years at my job, my position was eliminated. The same thing had happened after my first job out of college — I was at that one for 12 years. So I wanted to work for myself.  I also loved to cook and always had a dream of opening an Italian restaurant, so the time seemed right.”

Sikorski determined the name for her restaurant per Italian naming customs. When many members of a family have the same name — stemming from their being named after their own fathers or grandfathers — then the identifying characteristic becomes the skill around which the individual built his livelihood. With five “Joes” in the family, and Sikorski’s grandfather being known as such among his family for his passion for cooking Italian cuisine, the choice was simple for the new establishment’s name.

The fairytale of owning the family restaurant did not last long. After only eight months of operation, Sikorski was forced to close the restaurant, citing a lack of business rooted in low demand.

“The area was terrible for a restaurant,” she said.  “I should’ve done more research before deciding on the location, but it was literally two minutes from my home.”

Spaghetti Joes management photo

Spaghetti Joes owner Mary Grace Sikorski (center) alongside her father, Domonick Vito Corpora (left) and brother, Rev. Joe Corpora, C.S.C. (Photo/Mary Grace Sikorski>

Sikorski added that the restaurant industry was too demanding to justify continuing operation of the restaurant.

“I ended up going back to work for ‘the man,’ and it was far too taxing to keep up both the full-time job — which at this point was paying the bills — and running the restaurant,” she said. “Even with business at the restaurant declining, it was more than I could handle long term.”

Sikorski’s failure can be attributed, in some part, to the loss of South Bend’s industrial economic base. When Studebaker left South Bend in 1963, the rug was pulled out from under the city, who has still yet to recover completely after more than a half-century of stagnation.

This stagnation has made it harder for small business owners like Sikorski to succeed with less money flowing in and out of the city. In turn, Graff said, resources are restricted, and the number of jobs paying people a just wage and keeping them safely out of poverty has continually fallen since the early 1960s.

“(South Bend) used to have a much more significant industrial base, [but] the jobs that have disappeared or have moved away have not been replaced by jobs that pay the same,” he said.

The lack of economic success in the area was reflective of a larger nationwide trend which has shrunk the American middle class, Graff said.

“I refer to this nationally as a chronic crisis that we’ve been dealing with, the disappearance of stable long-term middle-class jobs for 40 or 50 years now,” he said. “You usually think of a ‘crisis’ as something momentary or a short period, and it’s chronic in the sense that it’s an ongoing thing. It long predates the Pence administration, and it’s bigger than Indiana too.”

Economic Success in South Bend

When Stephanie Mirza and her husband moved back to South Bend in 2016, they decided to take a leap and decided to purchase a unique home which doubled as a bed and breakfast.

“When [my husband] found out [he] had a position [at Notre Dame] to come back to … we looked at housing and he saw this place, he’s like this is amazing,” she said. “How often do you have the opportunity to not only buy a house but buy a historic home that’s also a bed and breakfast? We met the previous owner, asked her all sorts of questions like, ‘What in the world are we doing?’ She said it’s not that bad, it’s a lot of fun so we went for it and it’s worked out.”


Since purchasing the Innisfree — an Irish-themed bed and breakfast adorned with Gaelic symbols and with rooms named after famous figures in Irish history — the Mirzas have seen booming business, something Stephanie attributed, in part, to a revitalized South Bend.

“South Bend, since we left five or six years ago, has changed a lot. We left when it was at a low point and we come back and see life and interest and attention coming to this area which is good for us, good for our business,” she said. “The river lights [are] a beautiful addition, the Four Winds [Field], that’s a big deal. I think we’re going to see a lot more business because of that.”

InnisFree photo

The Innisfree Bed and Breakfast, on the west side of South Bend, was purchased in mid 2016 by Stephanie Mirza and her husband. The inn has seen success since the in the months since it came under new ownership. (Photo/Lucas Masin-Moyer)

Mirza’s success, and that of other small businesses in the region, has been helped by city-level initiatives spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. These initiatives, Mirza said, were aimed at improving the outward appeal of business, thereby helping them to grow income.

“The city has initiatives for small business,” she said. “If you want to improve the outside of your business and you’re within this radius of downtown, you can get grants to do that. I applied for one to work on the exterior part, it can’t be just for maintenance it has to be some new signage or some new … improve the look on the street.

Overall, Mirza said operating a business in South Bend has been a positive and successful experience.

“It’s been great,” she said. “We just moved from Berkeley, California, so it’s kind of a major shift as far as cultural and things like that. But the environment here has been really receptive and positive. People really genuinely want to help out.”

Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story of Teen Suicide in Indiana

By Lauren Fox and Claire Radler • May 15th, 2017

“I remember praying to die. At the grotto, I remember praying to die.” –  Morgan Monte, 34, a peer support specialist for a community of mental health.

In her late teenage years and during her sophomore and junior years at Notre Dame, Morgan Monte struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, the same issues that she helps others combat today through her work.

“It was in my mind all the time, like thoughts of being worthless. Everything I did, my mind would find a way to tell me that I screwed up somehow,” Monte said.

“Part of how the depression manifested was doing risky things like riding my bike along the side of the road in the dark, like a passive death wish.”

Monte’s depression materialized in her high school years at Frankenmuth High School in the form of eating disorders. What started with eating too little and exercising too much reversed into eating too much. This then progressed to acts of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Monte could not handle her emotions, she said, and sought to shut them down.

The onset of Monte’s depression mirrors those of other teens — and her story is a common one.

Of all 50 states, Indiana ranks in the middle, No. 25, for most suicides in 2016:

But in terms of teen suicide rates, Indiana ranks much higher in comparison to other states.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the third leading cause of death among people aged 10-14 and the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 in 2015.

This issue especially hit close to home in Indiana. According to the 2015 Indiana Youth Institute Kids Count Data Book, the state was third out of 37 ranked states for the percentage of teens who considered attempting suicide. Indiana was second out of 34 ranked states for teens who say they made a suicide plan.

Indiana Youth Institute President and CEO Tami Silverman said in a February 2017 video interview: “Unfortunately, Indiana is higher than the nation in all four categories… We break it down into four different categories: Those students who have seriously considered attempting suicide, those who have made a plan to attempt suicide, those who have actually attempted suicide, and those who have attempted and needed medical attention.”

Additionally, the percentage of Indiana female teens nearly doubles the percent of male teens in these four categories:

The Indiana Youth Institute also cites some key facts about the state’s high school students:

  • One in five thought about suicide.
  • One in five made a suicide plan.
  • One out of 10 attempted suicide.
  • One out of 25 attempted suicide and needed medical attention.

In South Bend, suicide prevention programming exists and is continuously developing.

The Oaklawn Psychiatric Center partners with South Bend Community Schools to administer STAND (Students Taking a New Direction) assistance programming that focuses on the prevention of drug and alcohol use. Additionally, the community department of Memorial Hospital of South Bend received a grant in 2017 from the Norma Frank Estate that will go to provide QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) training. This training is designed to teach anybody how to respond to people who may be contemplating suicide. Rebecca Zakowski, a pediatric health project specialist from Memorial Hospital, stated in an interview:

“It [QPR] encourages people not to be afraid to ask people about suicide.”

According to Zakowski, Memorial Hospital is partnering with South Bend Community Schools and will begin providing QPR training to teachers and licensed school staff throughout the 2017-2018 school year.

Riley High School takes additional steps to address teen suicide. Suicide prevention programming is provided yearly in their health classes. They teach the signs of suicide as well as what to do if a friend or family member is suicidal.

According to Mary Dunn, a social worker from the high school, “These efforts have paid off many times over.  Several suicidal students were brought to me by their peers.  We take suicide very seriously at Riley and pray that our students trust us enough to let us help them through difficult times.”

At the University of Notre Dame, steps are being taken to promote suicide prevention.

Phoebe Natale photo

Phoebe Natale tells event participants about teen suicide and explains the goal of Howard’s Walk for More Tomorrows event. (Photo by Lauren Fox)

Howard Hall, a women’s dormitory, hosted an event called “Walk for More Tomorrows” on the South Quad of Notre Dame’s campus on March 30. The goal of the event was to raise awareness, support and prevention regarding teen suicide. Participants in the event were asked to donate $2 to the Suicide Prevention Center of South Bend and then walk around a track twice. As participants walked around the track, they read yard signs that included other statistics regarding suicide.

Phoebe Natale, Notre Dame junior and Vice President of Howard Hall, said, “When I first became Vice President of Howard, I knew that I wanted to make a focus of mental health during my time in office. Suicide has been in my life since the age of 12 up until as recent as this past Monday. Howard exec and I recognized that mental health and suicide are extremely prevalent on our campus, though sometimes the awareness isn’t there. Maybe it’s because people don’t want to talk about it for fear of stigma; maybe they simply don’t know how.”

The event prompted discussion on campus.

“After people took the time to listen to what I had to say and what other girls had to say, gather materials and take their walk around the track,” Natale said. “A lot of them came out a little bit less excited than when they first entered. Which, to me, as morbid as it sounds, tells me that it had an impact. Hopefully they’ll be thinking of this going forward and will be able to step in if they see that something is up with a friend or a family member.”

Another piece of positive feedback came from Monte, who posted in the Facebook event page:

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 8.10.02 PM

The way teens talk about suicide has an impact.

“How do we talk about it? I think generally in very hushed tones,” said Mary Mecca, a Notre Dame senior and campus advocate for suicide prevention, in an interview.\

Teens sometimes attempt to understand suicide through logical reasoning. “They’re looking for answers that would make logical sense to an individual who is not suffering from mental illness,” Mecca states. “But unfortunately, 90 percent of individuals that do decide to kill themselves are mentally ill.”

However, people cannot attest suicide to mental health and leave it at that, Mecca adds.

“We say that it was the victim that didn’t know what they were doing, and were mentally ill…and then you just leave it at that…And it’s really sad to just leave it at that, because then it’s sort of a ‘my hands are clean of this, that’s sort of their problem’, they were born that way, done,” Mecca stated.

For depressed teens, it may be cliché, but it is important to know that it gets better, said Monte.

Monte has come a long way. Through medication, dialectical behavior therapy and a getting a dog, she is now helping others undergoing similar situations by sharing her story and co-facilitating support groups. She said that supporting others helps her see how far she has come over the years.

“I want to stress that I am happy now, maybe not optimally, but I experience joy frequently as a contrast to being in that dark place,” she said. “So I guess if a teen was struggling, I would encourage them to reach out and get help. When I’m alone with my thoughts, they spiral and amplify — ­­ when I talk to someone, they calm and have less power over me.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Will the Campus Crossroads Project Unify the Notre Dame Campus?

By Katelyn Higgins, John Horlander and Sierra Mayhew • May 15th, 2017

To many, Notre Dame Stadium is a destination six days a year. However, with the creation of the Campus Crossroads project, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick sought out to make it a destination 365 days a year.

In January 2014, shortly after Notre Dame concluded the 2013 football season, the university announced the largest construction and development project in the school’s history.

The Campus Crossroads Project is precisely that: a “crossroads” of academics, student life, and athletics. At the outset, the projected cost was $400 million, and over three years into the massive task that number has not wavered, school officials say. There are multiple facets to Campus Crossroads: the improvements to the football stadium and fan experience, a new student center and restaurants, new academic offices and classrooms, and more.

All aspects related to the football experience will be finished before the Irish kick off against Temple on Sept. 2, school officials say. The student center and academic buildings will be completed before the start of the 2018 spring semester.

Doug Marsh, the University’s architect and vice president for facilities design and operations said of the project, “Student life, athletics and academics in one building. It’s never been done before.”

Marsh took media on a tour of the Duncan Student Center, the addition on the west side of the stadium. Duncan will have three new eateries, Star Ginger Asian Grill and Noodle Bar, Modern Market and a coffee house featuring Intelligentsia coffee.

The first two floors will also have a student lounge, administrative offices and meeting rooms. The third and fourth floors will have a brand new student recreational facility, which will replace Rolfs Sports Recreation Center upon completion. Rolfs will be completely renovated and become a state-of-the-art practice facility for the Fighting Irish basketball teams.

Additional basketball courts will also be put in the north dome of the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center, and they will open alongside the opening of the Duncan Student Center. The student rec center will feature a three-floor rock climbing wall, running/walking track, basketball court, and brand new exercise equipment.

The fifth level will be the new home to the career center, complete with interview rooms, offices, and more; the sixth floor is mechanical support. Floors 1-6 will be completed by spring 2018. On the seventh floor is a 500-seat ballroom, club seating, and more. The eighth and ninth floors also cater to premium customers.

The Duncan Student Center, located just a few yards east of the most-frequented classroom building on campus, Debartolo Hall, will offer close, easy access to students when it opens in January 2018. According to Senior Deputy Director of Athletics Missy Conboy, the plan for Duncan is for it to become a central spot on campus for students.

Improved Viewing

When the project was first announced, most believed the enhancements to the stadium were solely to offer premium seating to donors and high-paying guests. However, Conboy said that is not the case.

When the project was approved, Conboy said the school conducted a feasibility study on campus to see how the project would affect each part of campus, from the students and faculty, to the typical Notre Dame Football fan.

One of the initiatives to come from the feasibility study: put Rolfs Rec Center into the Duncan Student Center.

“We were in the midst of planning to build a complex for men’s and women’s basketball programs when we thought what if we relocate Rolf’s, which doesn’t have all that it needs now, to the same space as the student center so students can now have almost everything in the same location,” Conboy said.

Next, they developed plans to enhance the stadium to attract fans away from watching the game from home or at a sports bar. This meant the addition of premium space in the form of skyboxes and other premium seating. What many do not realize was the focus to improve the stadium for the “average Joe” fan.

Conboy said more than a year and a half into the project they realized they had to add updates for the average fan as well.

360 perspective: A look inside Campus Crossroads

ND crossroads tour #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

“We couldn’t open the gates this fall after three years of construction and have fans feel like they were still getting the same thing,” Conboy said.

This meant the majority of the stadium was to get a much needed facelift which included replacing the infamous wood bleachers for new metal covered bleachers. The concourse updates includes new paint and signage, renovating the bathrooms and concessions stands and the addition of over 200 TV monitors so fans can see the game while in the concourse.

Conboy stressed the importance of maintaining the integrity of existing stadium. The project repurposed over 90% of the wood bleachers, searched extensively to find brick to match the original bricking and will even hand paint bricks near the gates to match the originals.

She referenced the innovation that Knute Rockne possessed when he built a stadium in the 1920s that held 60,000 people. It was important to continue the innovation with the Campus Crossroads project, she said.

With the stadium known as the “house that Rockne built”, undergoing so many changes, some critics have said it hurts the traditions that make the stadium great. Conboy disagreed.

“If Rockne were around today, he would have done the same thing because he was a great innovator,” she said.

Martyrs or Graduates?

Seniors had many negative opinions on the project have different and personal reasons for their resentment. They responded to a Google Questionnaire rating their feelings from 1-10 on the Campus Crossroads project. They rated their excitement towards the project as 4.4. They took offense to the project in a different way than underclassmen students.

Some seniors say that from the moment that they walked on campus to the day they walk across the stage to accept their degree, they have had to deal with the construction eyesore.

Senior Rachel Dupont, an anthropology major, felt strongly about the project. “I’m really happy that the anthropology department is getting a new place but I do feel like a martyr because I am missing out on a lot of things.”

The excitement about the project that the university has been using to increase morale on campus has been hurting seniors more than helping them.

360 perspective: A view from the 50 yard line

ND stadium 3 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

A Point of View From the Field

Morale has been low after a 4-8 record season for the Notre Dame football team. But one player thinks this project can help turn things around.

The introduction to an improved stadium can really affect the definition of the term “home field advantage.” Ashton White, a safety entering his second year with the football team, stresses the importance of the stadium.

movie_play_blue2Watch more: Video tour of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series

“It has an effect on wins and losses in the sense that we have a feeling of confidence and comfort that comes from being at home, playing in our stadium and in front of our fans.”

Coming out of a rough season for Notre Dame football, morale is low. These additions have the potential ability to boost the confidence of the fans and the team. Bringing in an improved locker room and stadium atmosphere is exactly what the school needs.

As White explains the excitement that the players have in relation to their experience in the new stadium, it becomes clear that this project has the ability to improve the game of football for not only the viewers but also the men on the field.

Marsh spoke of the project with a great view toward the campus’s future, referring to the renovations as “200 years from now.”


Battling Hunger in Indiana: Food Insecurity Rates Vary Widely Around State

By Caelin Miltko and Dakota Connell-Ledwon • May 15th, 2017

Jennifer Lundy photo

Jennifer Lundy collects food for her mother and her family. Lundy is a former volunteer at the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. (Photo/Caelin Miltko)

Jennifer Lundy, a South Bend resident, rolled her cart up to the counter at the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. The cart was filled to the brim with produce and non-perishables to be taken home to her three daughters, her niece and nephew and her mother.

Her mother had just had shoulder surgery and was unable to work. Lundy said that getting from the local food bank helps her mother out a great deal.“I watched a lot of people come through here,” said Lundy, who used to volunteer at the food bank, “and you don’t realize the demand for these places.”

In Indiana, the average food insecurity rate between 2013 and 2015 was 14.84 percent, according the United States Department of Agriculture. This was more than a full percentage point higher than the national average in the same time period.

bluebookiconRead more: Bringing the farm downtown

Households ranked as having low or very low food security, as defined by the USDA, were included in those numbers. Across Indiana counties, the food insecurity rate varies widely. According to Feeding America, in 2014, the lowest county food insecurity rate in Indiana was 9.4 percent in Hamilton County, just north of Indianapolis. The highest was 19.4 percent in Marion County, where Indianapolis is located.

St. Joseph County, where the Food Bank of Northern Indiana is located, had a food insecurity rate of 16 percent.

“It’s a major healthcare crisis. 42 million Americans are food insecure,” said Dr. Craig Gundersen, a professor who studies food insecurity at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “That’s a lot of people that are food insecure. In and of itself that’s a serious problem. The other thing about is that there are many negative health outcomes associated with food insecurity and also that there’s higher healthcare costs associated with it.”

In Indiana, the food insecurity rate increased slightly in the early 2000s, spiked in 2008 and continued to rise slightly through 2015. According to the US Census Bureau, the average food insecurity rate in Indiana from 2010 to 2012 was 13.5 percent. The increase reflects a national trend.

Shane Turner, a South Bend resident, recently began volunteering at the food bank. He was exposed to the facility by his girlfriend, who used to work there. Turner decided he wanted to use his time to help make a difference in his community.

“It’s just an awesome place,” he said. “It helps out the community, really makes it a happier community.”

The pantry area where clients pick out their items is just a small part of the facility–a large storage area, complete with freezers and huge bins for sorting goods, extends beyond the pantry. The food bank currently has eight volunteers and two full-time staff, and the volunteers logged almost 50,000 hours last year in order to serve thousands of clients, according to Jaime Owen, an agency relations manager.

“Most people don’t go to a food pantry just once,” she said. “We have 25,000 visitors a week in our network.”

Shane Turner photo

Shane Turner helps Lundy ‘check out’ after she’s chosen her food. (Photo/Caelin Miltko)

Turner said he hopes to be hired as a full-time staff and become more involved with the food bank.

“I just wanted to come here and do something,” he said. His current duties involve packing food, clearing freezers and loading and unloading deliveries.

Food insecurity is only one statistical way of measuring hunger in a given area. The USDA defines low food security as “reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.” Very low food security is when there are “reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.”

 Gundersen said SNAP is “far and away the best way to address food insecurity. First, it would be great if we could get more people onto the program, either by making sure that those who are eligible participate and also by expanding eligibility criteria higher in the income spectrum, so more people would be eligible for the program. And another thing that would be great is to increase benefit levels.”

In Indiana, according to the USDA, 73 percent of eligible participants used SNAP in 2010. In 2014, 13.5 percent of Indiana’s population participated in SNAP and the number of participants increased by 2.53 percent from 2009 to 2014.

Another way of tracking hunger is through the concept of “food deserts,” which examines access to food by comparing the locations of the closest grocery stores, the income levels of the inhabitants and whether people have access to a vehicle.

In 2010, 33.77 percent of individuals in St. Joseph County had ‘low access’ to food, though only 9.17 percent were low income and had low access to food. Only 1.54 percent of households had no vehicle and low access to grocery stores.

“Whenever I think about food deserts, usually it’s not a big issue, but on an individual level it could be,” Gundersen said.

Owen said, “Most people are surprised by how great the need is. There is a stereotype of unwed mothers with 75 children and no education, but about half of our clients are under 18 or over the age of 60. That’s sad. No one should have to go hungry.”

The Food Bank of Northern Indiana is a member agency of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, and it works with about 200-member agencies–more than half of which are food pantries. The others are soup kitchens, shelters and other food services for low-income people.

Owen said the Food Bank of Northern Indiana encourages all of their pantries to be client choice, meaning they mimic grocery stores in their set up. Unlike the traditional food pantry, which prepacks boxes for clients, at a client choice pantry, users are given a set number of each type of item that they may take (carbs, veggies, hygiene products, meat, etc.) based on the number of people in their household. Then they use a shopping cart to collect their food and “check out” with a volunteer.

“Some of the stories are just tragic,” Owen said. “There are so many senior citizens who for some reason are now raising their grandchildren, or who have had something happen to other family members.”

Aside from their home pantry in St. Joseph County, the Food Bank of Northern Indiana works with several counties in the area with several different programs, including a “Food for Kids” backpack program and a mobile pantry, which travels to rural Stark County once a month.

“If we knew the answer [to solving food insecurity], we wouldn’t need food banks and food pantries,” Owen said.

Town and Gown: How Do Notre Dame and South Bend Make It Work?

By Madison Riehle and Allie Hoerster • May 14th, 2017

Before the University of Notre Dame’s economic and social influence gained traction, the city thrived off of the business and jobs created by the Studebaker automobile plant. At its height, the company employed 7,000 people, which was eight percent of South Bend in 1960, according to the Studebaker National Museum.

When the plant closed in 1963, both the population and the economy took a hit, with 20,000 residents leaving the city over 40 years, putting South Bend on Newsweek’s 2011 list of “America’s Dying Cities.”

Despite this, and due to recent pushes and changes in South Bend’s government and the sustained effort of new Notre Dame programs, South Bend is transitioning, experts and officials say.

“The city is growing and developing, it has some really positive areas.” said Jackie Burns Rucker, Associate Director of Community Relations for the University of Notre Dame. “It is a thriving community that has a large alumni population here, and has a really rich history.”

The City of South Bend and the University of Notre Dame are inextricably linked by a long-standing symbiotic relationship. As one of the largest enterprises in the St. Joseph County area, Notre Dame plays an integral role in the city’s economy, which makes community outreach initiatives and programs measures all the more important.

Juxtapose: The development of Eddy Street Commons over the last 14 years.

“There’s a symbiosis between the community and the University that we recognize more than ever, and I think communities around the country are recognizing this, so we talk a lot about the mutual benefit of our partnerships in a way that we can use our expertise on campus,” said Jay Caponigro, director of community engagement in the Office of Public Affairs at the University of Notre Dame.

The Office of Public Affairs is just one of the ways that Notre Dame has involved itself in the community. Its goal is to build, maintain and support the community of South Bend by engaging Notre Dame students with city residents. The projects that the Office of Public Affairs executes revolve around the education and enrichment of South Bend children.

“Our after-school program is very diverse—we will host events here at the center, and we have an after school program that is 2nd through 4th grade,” Rucker said about the Center for Arts and Culture. “Within the after-school program, the first hour is literacy based and the second hour is arts and culture enrichment. I utilize art and culture to try to help build relationships.”

The Center for Arts and Culture is just one of the many sites that Notre Dame students and faculty invest their time. More than 945,850 hours of community service work is performed by more than 2,250 Notre Dame students and more than 360 University faculty and staff during the 2014-15 academic year, according to a 2016 economic survey of Notre Dame.

Blue map pin iconStoryMap: Notre Dame’s impact on South Bend

Similarly, academic courses engage students with the local community through entrepreneurship opportunities and funds, as well as community-based research, which is run by the Center for Social Concerns and includes an out-of-classroom service element.

“With the community-based research, you see a lot of Catholic social teaching coming up as part of the justification for getting involved in those projects,” Caitlin Hodges, Notre Dame Student Government Director of Community Relations, said. “That’s the language you’ll see replicated at just about every level of Notre Dame when they are doing something like that.”

This kind of engagement is understood as growth in human capital — and is the most important factor for economic growth, as it leads to higher educational levels and future funds.

Aside from time investments, Notre Dame is the leading employer in the South Bend area, employing around 5,700 South Bend residents. In fiscal year 2015, the University spent nearly $168.5 million on purchases of goods and services, excluding construction, from businesses in St. Joseph County, according to a report on a 2016 economic survey of Notre Dame.

360-Degree Perspective: Step into South Bend’s southeast neighborhood.

“We know that we have to have infrastructure locally that will attract people to come to Notre Dame,” Caponigro said. “We want to make sure there are learning opportunities in the community, not just on the University campus.”

Notre Dame also focuses its community efforts on maintaining the overall look of the community, as well as ensuring that student housing does not override affordable housing in the neighboring areas.

This includes the Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization, which aims to build residential housing off of Eddy Street Commons through in the Triangle Residential District. Notre Dame is also making strides to maintain housing through the Notre Dame Avenue Housing Project.

“I think that’s a big conversation right now with gentrification,” Hodges said. “what happens when so many students are moving off-campus, and there’s a really good market and that’s how you’re going to make money, but that used to be a house where a family could have afforded to live. It’s not good or bad, but it’s balancing and sometimes it feels like it’s not very well-balanced.”

Through this mutually beneficial relationship, the city has grown, both in population as well as technology as the city’s population is up for the first time since 2000. Along with this, projects like Innovation and Ignition Park have begun to expose the area to new creative solutions to city problems, as well as provide support for student and local entrepreneurs.

“At the end of the day, it’s important for our leadership at multiple levels,” Caponigro said. “If our community doesn’t succeed, Notre Dame will not succeed — not at the level that we want to.”