Letter to the Editor: Foundation gifts encourage year-round giving

February 3, 2012

Two local foundations awarded a total of $200,000 to 16 member agencies of Ozarks Food Harvest over the past couple of weeks. By working through Ozarks Food Harvest, the charities’ dollars will leverage $10 worth of food distribution for every dollar donated, meaning the gifts from the Slusher and Musgrave Foundations will result in $2 million worth of food distributed to southwest Missourians in need. Not only is the amount significant, but so is the timing.

Many people assume that demand for food assistance is highest during the holiday season. In actuality, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner are merely two meals out of the more than 1,000 meals we need to eat throughout the year. While Ozarks Food Harvest distributes additional food items specific to the holidays, hunger is still with us in the New Year. In fact, the need is often higher during the first three months of the year, when charitable giving decreases and utility bills and other expenses rise.

At least that used to be the case. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, unemployment remains high and some people refer to a jobless recovery as the new normal. What is becoming the norm for many families is reliance on food pantries as a mainstay to make ends meet. The new normal for Ozarks Food Harvest, the regional food bank for pantries and other feeding sites, means an increase in demand every month, regardless of the season.

A national report released last fall finds that food banks and the food pantries they serve — originally created to serve as stop-gap emergency food providers — are now part of many American households’ long-term strategies to supplement monthly food shortfalls. Many of those now depending on Ozarks Food Harvest’s network have never had to ask for help before, let alone on an ongoing basis.

Cheryl, a food pantry client, recently told me, “You have to put aside your pride and do what you can to feed your family. We didn’t know how to be poor before, but we’re learning fast now.” Cheryl was laid off from her supervisory position a year and a half ago. Her husband was out of work for nearly a year before he found a job that paid about half as much as his previous position. Cheryl and her family represent the new face of poverty in America — the unemployed middle class. They are our neighbors, our co-workers and sometimes our own families.

The Jeannette L. Musgrave Foundation and the Roy W. Slusher Foundation are leading the charge this year by recognizing that the issue of hunger, and the charitable giving that addresses this problem, knows no season. We hope the generous support of the Musgrave and Slusher Foundations will inspire those who are able, to give throughout the year in addition to holiday giving. Together we are stronger, and I have to believe we can rise to meet our new normal this year and beyond.

—Bart Brown, president/CEO, Ozarks Food Harvest

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About Ozarks Food Harvest—The Food Bank
Ozarks Food Harvest is the Feeding America food bank for southwest Missouri, serving more than 300 hunger relief organizations across 28 Ozarks counties. The Food Bank reaches approximately 80,000 individuals monthly and distributes 12 million pounds of food annually. OFH was named the 2011 Small Business of the Year by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. Visit the O’Reilly Center for Hunger Relief at 2810 N. Cedarbrook Ave. in North Springfield. Learn more and at