Rural family finds hope in Barton County
A family of five in rural Barton County has hope again after receiving help from an Ozarks Food Harvest hunger-relief partner. Hard times left the family with unstable housing, no transportation and no access to food. They walked to a convenience store or used a neighbor’s water to bathe and use the bathroom because they had no running water. The three boys slept in sleeping bags to keep roaches and mice away at night. The family needed help, and without transportation, they had nowhere to turn.
Then the pandemic hit.
About Our Kids (AOK) Youth, one of The Food Bank’s partners in Barton County, was forced to transition from serving meals in person to delivering them. That’s when they noticed the family’s need.
“The kids never would have come to AOK because they were totally under the radar,” Jerod Morey, executive director of AOK Youth, shared. “They never would have had these food opportunities, foremost without Ozarks Food Harvest, and without this outreach program. Because we were able to take food to them, it opened up our eyes to so much more.”
When a hunger-relief organization doesn’t have to worry about sourcing food, they can focus on making sure families have access to it. That’s why Ozarks Food Harvest has worked so hard during the pandemic to ensure our network always has food.
AOK Youth didn’t have to worry about where their food was coming from, which allowed them to focus on finding and helping families in their time of need. The family of five now has their boys enrolled in AOK’s summer youth program, which allows them to eat, hang out with friends and attend field trips. The most important part of the program, according to Jerod, is that the kids just get to be kids.
“They’ll say, ‘I don’t have to worry about anything when I’m here,’” he shared. “‘I don’t have to worry about being hungry.’”
Children are more susceptible to food insecurity, especially during the summer when free and reduced school meals are not available. But because of AOK, and other Ozarks Food Harvest summer sites, thousands of children have access to nutritious food all summer long.
Many of these sites are in rural areas, which often face hunger at higher rates. A lack of transportation is also an unseen barrier to families living in these remote or hard-to-reach towns.
“There are families in rural Barton County that desperately need food but are not able to get it because they don’t have a way to come into Lamar,” Jerod shared. “Their kids rely on school transportation, and they don’t have the extra funds to run back and forth to get food and resources.”
AOK Youth is committed to reaching rural families in need. Thanks to the dedicated staff at AOK Youth, the family of five now has stable housing, running water and food in their pantry. More importantly, they have hope. Without donations from people like you, Ozarks Food Harvest wouldn’t be able help organizations like AOK Youth.
We are so grateful for the people in our network of 270 hunger-relief organizations that make life-changing stories like this happen. Thank you for ensuring our organization can continue to Transform Hunger into Hope in southwest Missouri.