A 6 Million Meal Milestone in Christian County
In a time of unprecedented need, ongoing challenges and new successes, Ozarks Food Harvest is celebrating milestones as a reminder of just how important our mission to Transform Hunger into Hope is for the future of our communities. In December, The Food Bank held our first milestone event to celebrate donating our 6 millionth meal to Least of These and 25 years of partnership.
When Least of These started in 1998 as a church community outreach project, they provided food for seven families in the first month. By the end of their first year, the pantry was serving 100 families, and today, Least of These has grown to provide food for 1,500 families in Christian County each month. That kind of growth is a testament to the dedication of staff and volunteers with a passion for feeding their community – and why Ozarks Food Harvest has been able to provide over 6 million meals to our neighbors facing hunger through Least of These.
It’s also a glimpse at just how many people still need help.
Like much of the hunger-relief network, the demand for food assistance at Least of These has increased to be higher than during the peak of the pandemic. Kristy Carter, executive director for Least of These, shared that the charity is seeing more new clients and dual-income families seeking food assistance for the first time. She explained, “There are many families who are reeling from rapidly rising expenses. More working middle-class families are struggling to stretch food budgets while also covering skyrocketing costs of rent, utilities and transportation.”
As more people worry about their grocery budgets, Least of These recognizes that compassion and a sense of dignity are more important than ever to give our neighbors hope. Their client-choice pantry model allows neighbors to choose which groceries they receive monthly from the pantry. Choice makes the experience more personal and compassionate, accommodating for each person’s different needs and circumstances while also reducing food waste.
But sustaining their service has proved challenging recently because while the number of people seeking help from Least of These is up, the amount of donations has dropped, putting the pantry in a tough spot. “Least of These relies solely on donations,” said Kristy. “We’re having to make changes to be strategic and conservative, all while maintaining a sense of dignity and compassion for the people who rely on us.”
The concern is echoed across Ozarks Food Harvest’s network of faith-based and community charities – and Ozarks Food Harvest is listening. The Food Bank remains committed to supporting our hunger-relief network with nutritious food and programs, including a series of ongoing grants to increase their capacity and meet demand. The Food Bank has awarded more than $500,000 worth of grant funds since last year, and Least of These was recently awarded $15,000 to supplement food purchasing for the pantry.
“We know choice and dignity go hand-in-hand for clients,” Kristy shared, “So we want to make every effort to maintain strong relationships with our partners to allow us to continue to preserve the dignity of those we serve. Our partnership with Ozarks Food Harvest is vital to making sure families in Christian County don’t go hungry.”
Since 2010, Ozarks Food Harvest has provided more than $100,000 in grant funding and 9.5 million pounds of food to Least of These. Our partnership has resulted in hope and nourishment for thousands of our neighbors facing hunger and would not be possible without continuous support from our generous donors. Through unprecedented challenges, your compassion makes it possible to Transform Hunger into Hope.