Families see impact through Retail Pick-Up Program
When Julie lost her job in college admissions, and her husband went on disability after suffering an injury as a construction worker, eight-year-old Hailey was the most sensitive to the fact that her family was going through a hard time.
“Hailey is the one who watched me going through a huge binder of all our utility bills, credit card and mortgage statements, methodically calling each company to see who could work with us, as our savings dwindled,” Julie shared.
For families who struggle to put food on the table, children often suffer silently, not understanding why they don’t have food when other kids do, all while being unable to change their own situation.
Fortunately, these families can turn to Ozarks Food Harvest’s network of 200 hunger-relief organizations when they need help.
“(Hailey) saw the relief on my face when we learned of the food pantry,” Julie said. “She sees the gratitude I feel each month when volunteers load up our car with healthy food and fresh produce, knowing that with the pantry’s help, her dad and I will make sure that she and her siblings will always have enough to eat.”
Ozarks Food Harvest is able to help those who struggle with hunger by providing high-quality, nutritious food through the Retail Pick-Up Program.
The program started as a model for Walmart’s donation program in 2007. The Food Bank coordinates pick-ups of product donations from local grocers, rescuing the food before it goes to waste. The donated food often does not meet standards for retail sales, but is still safe for consumption.
At the end of the first year, 20 participating stores donated more than 400,000 pounds of food.
Today, the program has grown to 68 grocery partners donating 6.8 million pounds this past fiscal year. This amounts to over 40 percent of the food distributed by The Food Bank.
“Without the retail partners, the amount of food available for people in need would be drastically less,” said Dan Bohannon, Retail Store Donation Coordinator for OFH.
He said retail partners see two main benefits: they are helping the community and providing nutritious food that is often not purchased because of high costs.
Not only does the program provide needed food for Ozarks Food Harvest’s network of member agencies, it provides the food that clients want. Forty-three percent of the donated food through the Retail Pick-Up Program is produce – the most requested item from those who receive food assistance.
“The boom in fresh produce from store donations has allowed many of our agencies to provide more healthful foods for their clients,” Bohannon shared. “These items are often not included in their clients’ diet due to price of produce compared to other prepared food options.”
For families like Josh and Julie’s, this program is truly a lifesaver.
“We’re getting slowly back on our feet,” Julie shared. “With our monthly relief from the food pantry, our family has been able to weather this difficult period together.”