Bart Brown: Growth vital to meet need
This summer will mark eight years since moving into our distribution facility, the O’Reilly Center for Hunger Relief. The move was the result of a four-year capital campaign that was only possible because of the generosity of so many, including you, our supporter and friend.
Although it doesn’t seem that long ago, it’s incredible to think about the growth we have been able to achieve because of the space afforded to us in our current building. In summer 2009, we had just ended a fiscal year where we distributed nearly seven million pounds of food. This year we’re on track to provide more than 17 million pounds of food.
When you compare 2009 to today, we’ve seen a 258 percent increase in the number of meals we’ve been able to distribute to people in need through our network of 270 pantries and programs in 28 southwest Missouri counties.
Some of our rural counties with especially high need, including Dade, Hickory, Laclede, Lawrence, Oregon and Texas, saw upwards of a 400 percent increase.
We’ve been able to grow all of our programs, and even add new programs, thanks to our facility here in north Springfield.
We’re now feeding 261,000 children, adults and seniors every year through our network of agencies.
For those of you who have been supporters of ours from the beginning, you know how fast we were able to achieve that growth. And for those of you who have just joined us, you may know that we have a new opportunity to help even more of our neighbors in need through the Ending Hunger, Building Hope capital campaign.
It’s hard to imagine, but despite our exponential growth, there is still more work to be done. The latest report from Feeding America’s food insecurity study, Map the Meal Gap, shows that Ozarks Food Harvest’s service area needs 31 million meals to meet the need.
We’re more than half-way there, but I can promise you that we won’t stop working until everyone in southwest Missouri has enough to eat.
The capital campaign is guaranteed to help make that meal gap smaller, and that’s why we are so excited to get the final funds raised.
Ultimately, our work comes down to helping the family struggling with too many bills and not enough income, the child who just wants to play basketball after school and not worry about his empty stomach and the senior who worked so hard her whole life and worries if she’ll have enough money for a loaf of bread.
This Christmas we were able to provide five single mothers with $100 gift cards to Walmart thanks to support from our friends at the Musgrave Foundation.
One mother, Tabetha, was almost brought to tears with the gift. She was worried about providing a nice Christmas meal for her children. And as the weather turned cold, she didn’t know how she was going to fix the holes in her kids’ shoes and coats.
“It’s a blessing, thank you so much,” she said.
The small gift was able to provide something we talk about a lot here at Ozarks Food Harvest — hope.
I hope this New Year is off to a great start for you and your family. We can’t wait to see what we’ll be able to accomplish as we work together this year to help more of our neighbors in need.
Bart Brown is the president/CEO of Ozarks Food Harvest.
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