Investing in our Communities

Investing in our Communities

July 11, 2022 in Bart's Hope Notes Harvest Time Newsletter

The Food Assistance & Hunger in the Heartland 2021 study gave us important insights about the people we serve in southwest Missouri, but alongside the client demographics, this study provided a comprehensive look at our charitable partners who provide food to our neighbors in need.

Ozarks Food Harvest and its network of 270 partners span one-third of the state of Missouri. The study found that The Food Bank provides more than 70% of all the charitable food distributed within the 28 counties we serve. Ninety-six percent of the pantries said there would be a “major effect” if they no longer received food from Ozarks Food Harvest. More than half are staffed entirely by volunteers. And many of them expressed a need for funding.

The Martha Vance Samaritan Outreach Center told us, “Our primary concern and need right now is financial, and as inflation continues, our donations go down. We operate primarily on donations and people are not donating the way that they used to; no one can afford it. We struggle to keep our doors open to feed those in need.”

When the study asked how we could better serve our network, twenty-five percent reported a critical need for improved or additional refrigeration and freezer units.

When Ozarks Food Harvest Board of Directors learned about this, they immediately released funds for the urgent needs of our network. An emergency investment was granted to help families on the road to recovery now.

Seventy-four charities were awarded a total of $1 million in grants, which will pay for walk-in freezers, commercial coolers, shelving, pallet jacks, computers, and other items that will expand and sustain our partners feeding people facing hunger in southwest Missouri.

In addition to $1 million in grant funds, Ozarks Food Harvest’s Board of Directors has already committed to free food delivery to The Food Bank’s 270 charities to offset increased inflationary costs. These grant funds are an investment in the future of our community’s food system. Increasing access to food is key as our network of hunger-relief charities continue to deal with the expanding cost of food and fuel.

This is part of a multi-faceted strategy by The Food Bank to address new needs identified in the University of Missouri’s report. Ozarks Food Harvest’s response includes increasing deliveries through its Mobile Food Pantry Program, increasing production and distribution of nutrient-dense food through its Full Circle Gardens Program and increasing food distributed to seniors through its Senior Box and Produce Program.

One of our goals at Ozarks Food Harvest is to be proactive: to be the next generation of hunger relief for the Ozarks. We know that stronger agencies build a stronger food bank. We want to thank you for investing in us. With your continued support, we are able to strengthen our hunger network and provide more meals to more of our neighbors in need.