Writer / Janelle Morrison Photographer / JJ Kaplan Would you be able to detect a food insecure family here in Hamilton County? Would it surprise you to learn that our county is in the only “red” zone in Indiana which categorically means that approximately 30,000 residents are food insecure, some of which may live on the very same street as you? The physicians and staff at the Indiana Spine Group (ISG), a clinical team comprised of board-certified physicians and surgeons, nurse practitioners and physical therapists who work together to provide the best in spine care here in Carmel, learned about the rising numbers of people in need of nutritious food and decided to “step” up to host the inaugural “Steps to End Hunger” 5K, 1-mile run/walk and family festival on the evening of June 25. While hard to imagine, there are more than 12,500 food insecure children who live in Hamilton County alone. That’s close to one in every six children who do not have enough to eat to be healthy. Nearly 6,000 children in Hamilton County live in poverty. ISG has teamed up with Gleaners Food Bank to help feed hungry Hoosiers. Proceeds from the family fun run/walk and festival will benefit Gleaners BackSacks Weekend Food for Kids program. “The program provides children with meals that they can eat over the weekend,” said ISG’s public relations manager Stacia Matthews. “These are children who rely on school lunch programs as their main meal throughout the day. This sack that they take home every Friday will ensure that they have nutritious food through the weekend.” The event is ISG’s way to help raise awareness of a well-masked issue that affects families throughout our state but especially Hamilton County families that are at an alarmingly high risk of becoming first-generation poverty families. Matthews is assisting the group in their coordination and advocacy of the upcoming run/walk. The event will take place in the parking lot of the 60,000 square-foot facility; soon it will be 110,000 square feet with the expansion of 20 new patient rooms and three operating rooms in January 2017. “The inaugural run/walk is a family-friendly flat course that is designed for everybody,” Matthews said. “When we learned that there were food insecure families and that those numbers were growing here in central Indiana and especially in Hamilton County, we thought that this would be a good fit for our organization, and we would be able to help raise awareness. “We are working with Nancy Chance with the Good Samaritan Network, and she informed us that Hamilton County is in the red zone. The number of food insecure families is increasing. If we can help people and provide them with food, then they will be healthier, and there will be less absentees at school. Without nutritious food, children could grow up with deficiencies that could cause health problems in the years to come. “While we want this to become an annual event to assist with the issues of food insecurity, we hope that the event becomes unnecessary, and that the cause will no longer be relevant.” During the run/walk, there will be family-friendly activities going on in the ISG parking lot, including bounce houses, pizza and offerings from Carmel’s own Neighborhood Pizza and other activities throughout the event. ISG’s CEO Hardy Sikand emphasized that their group is dedicated to giving back to their Carmel community and to serving their county and local areas in need. “Each of our physicians are very interested in giving back to this community and to the greater central Indiana communities,” Sikand said. “We are all involved at an individual and group level of supporting local programs and organizations that benefit the people of our communities. We are proud to be hosting this event and are grateful to our sponsors who are supporting ISG, so that we can, in turn, support the efforts of Gleaners and their volunteers. Our group of physicians are incredible, socially-conscious individuals and believe in giving back to their communities and to their patients as well.” David Moore, Chief Advancement Officer for Gleaners Food Bank, oversees marketing, fundraising and volunteering as well as food sourcing. “It is very important that people register for this run/walk and participate because there are a lot of hungry Hoosiers, and there are a lot of hungry Hoosiers in Hamilton County,” Moore stated. “Those folks need somebody to help them through a very difficult time, and by doing this run/walk, this is highlighting our BackSacks program and helping to ensure that the children who receive the BackSacks are provided with six meals on a Friday, so that they can eat on the weekend. “They will be prepared to come back to school on a Monday, and rather than thinking about when they do they get to eat next, they are focused on their learning. It takes $8 million for us to fund our programs annually. We distribute about 30 million pounds of food. It requires a lot of money that is needed, and we spend every penny of it making sure that the food goes out to the people who truly need it. “We want people to understand that $1 can provide three meals for somebody. Our buying power gives us the opportunity to take that dollar and turn it into three meals. That makes a huge difference in the lives of those who are relying on us to help them during a difficult time in their lives.” Carmel Magazine is proud to be the media sponsor for this important inaugural event benefiting the important work of Gleaners.