Ozarks Food Harvest provides record relief in 2021

Ozarks Food Harvest provides record relief in 2021

December 6, 2021 in Charlie's Corner Harvest Time Newsletter

As we celebrated the holidays last year, we had no idea that our community would be so dramatically impacted by the pandemic for a second holiday season.

Today, we know that we will be feeling these effects for a while, but even so, there’s a lot to be grateful for. Ozarks Food Harvest marked another year of record food distribution in 2021, providing 23 million meals to our neighbors, and we couldn’t have done it without you. Our donors and volunteers are at the heart of our organization, and give me hope as we look forward.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, 1 in 7 people in the Ozarks faced hunger. Today, that number is 1 in 6. Ozarks Food Harvest is the largest COVID-19 related donor to charities in southwest Missouri. They have worked diligently to meet the needs of our 270 hunger-relief partners, who are serving food-insecure families across the region. As poverty and hunger have increased, the food bank has responded—this year providing $36.8 million in food and funds.

The Food Bank’s Mobile Food Pantry brings groceries to areas that don’t have a local hunger-relief organization. Over the last year, more than 1 million meals were distributed through Mobile Food Pantries. A mom shared that it helps her provide for her family. “This means that when the kids walk into the kitchen I don’t have to say, ‘Don’t eat that because I don’t know when I’m going to be able to buy more food.’” As the pandemic sends more and more first-time food recipients to seek assistance, we are thankful to fill this need.

Ozarks Food Harvest has also spent the last year helping families become enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps. Individuals who use SNAP benefits can become more self-sufficient and less reliant on food pantries, which frees up resources to help even more food-insecure neighbors. Not only that, but the SNAP program stimulates economic growth. In 2021, SNAP outreach contributed 1.2 million meals, creating an additional $5.6 million in local economic impact, as recipients spent their benefits at local grocery stores.

None of this would be possible without the enormous support of volunteers. With recent increased demand and disruptions in the supply chain, the Food Bank needed more help than ever to sort approximately 95,000 pounds of food each week. Members of the National Guard and more than 1,600 volunteers spent nearly 27,000 hours sorting and packing meals to ensure food distribution continued amidst the lingering pandemic this year.

Ozarks Food Harvest is grateful for the support of generous, compassionate neighbors like you. For each dollar donated, Ozarks Food Harvest can provide $10 worth of groceries to families in southwest Missouri that are experiencing hunger. As we enter the heart of winter, individuals face higher utility bills, end-of-year expenses, and many are still coping with effects from the pandemic. Help strengthen your community by ensuring that each person is able to start the new year without having to worry about how to put food on the table. Thank you for standing with Ozarks Food Harvest this year in our fight to end hunger in the Ozarks.