COVID-19: One year later
What a year it has been! COVID-19 presented a complex economic crisis unlike anything we’ve seen since the Great Depression, and I am so thankful that we’re finally able to see hope on the horizon.
As I reflect on the past year and look toward the future, I want to take a moment to thank you for your ongoing support. This journey has been long and winding, but thanks to generous donors like you, so many have been able to put a meal on the table during the hard and dark days. We truly couldn’t do any of this without you.
Your kindness has changed the lives of so many, and you allowed us to respond to the crisis quickly and efficiently. We started operating in emergency disaster-response mode last spring, and now, it’s become our new normal. Over the past year, we have hired additional staff members, added a truck to our fleet to increase our weekly routes and provided so many meals to families facing hunger.
Since April 2020, Ozarks Food Harvest has provided a record-breaking 22 million meals, increased distribution by nearly 2 million meals, connected nearly 1,000 people with the benefits they qualify for, distributed one million meals through new partnerships and mobile distributions and helped 64,000 people acquire food assistance for the first time in their lives.
We also distributed $3.6 million worth of food to our network of hunger-relief partners to ensure they could continue to meet the increased need. I’m incredibly thankful for all of our agencies that quickly adapted to the crisis by switching to drive-through distributions or providing to-go meals to continue serving the community.
We’ve made important steps toward recovery, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. We’re seeing an elevated need now, and for some, recovery will take years. Unemployment rates have increased in our communities, and 1 in 7 of our neighbors are facing hunger this year. This includes nearly 194,000 individuals, a 22 percent increase due to the impacts of the pandemic. We do not plan on slowing down anytime soon. We need to continue operating at this higher capacity to move the needle and close the meal gap.
This year, we will continue to provide meals at an elevated rate. Our staff and volunteers will host Mobile Food Pantry distributions in communities that continue to face COVID-19 hardships. We’re working closely with our pantry partners to meet their needs and make sure they have the tools they need to support their communities.
But we can’t do any of this alone. Today, I’m asking for your support as we face the coming months. Ozarks Food Harvest is the largest COVID-19-related donor to charities in southwest Missouri, and every dollar donated helps provide $10 worth of groceries.
If you would like to learn more about our response to the pandemic, feel free to reach out. And if you’re ready to make a gift, please visit ozarksfoodharvest.org/donate. I can’t thank you enough for your continued support that helps provide hope for so many.