Charlie O’Reilly: O’Reilly Center allows for food assistance to increase
Since Ozarks Food Harvest moved into its distribution center six years ago, incredible progress has been made in getting more food to people who need it most.
As Bart shared with you this summer, Ozarks Food Harvest is now distributing over 1.1 million meals every month to children, families and seniors in the Ozarks. That’s a record number of meals, and I’m proud to say that the capacity provided by the O’Reilly Center of Hunger Relief has played a big role in allowing distribution to grow.
Food Bank staff share with me that clients’ most requested items are fruits and vegetables, followed by protein items like meat and dairy — donations that require ample cooler and freezer space.
Just five years ago, Ozarks Food Harvest was distributing a little over one million pounds of refrigerated product annually. That number now is almost six million pounds a year, thanks to the increased capacity and refrigerator space at the new building.
Through the O’Reilly Center for Hunger Relief, our direct service programs have also seen incredible growth.
Nearly 56,000 bags of food are being distributed to children through the Weekend Backpack Program every year. This past fiscal year, 85 Mobile Food Pantry distributions were made in 15 counties. And as you read in the cover story, the Retail Pick-Up Program has expanded to 68 stores, with donations amounting to an amazing 40 percent of the food distributed by Ozarks Food Harvest.
While the increased capacity is something to applaud, what truly makes me proud is that more people in the Ozarks are getting the help they desperately need.
Bart told me about a young family in Howell County struggling to make ends meet.
“We have two young children. They love the fresh fruits and veggies … we value the natural foods, and it is disappointing when we do not have access to them,” shared Chris and Aberea Morgan. “Without the help of the Mobile Food Pantry, we would not survive. Our food stamps are not enough. We are just trying to get by.”
The need for food assistance is growing in southwest Missouri, but I’m confident that my friends at Ozarks Food Harvest are doing everything they can to ensure no one goes hungry.
Find out how you can help our hungry neighbors here.
Charlie O’Reilly is the vice-chair of O’Reilly Automotive’s Board of Directors, a hunger-relief advocate and supporter of Ozarks Food Harvest.