Walmart Donations Support Local Senior Center
Each weekday morning, the OATS Transit bus picks up dozens of seniors from their homes and brings them to Southside Senior Center in Springfield. Upon arrival, the seniors participate in exercise classes, play cards with friends, read books and enjoy a meal together.
Dotty, who’s in her 80s, began spending time at Southside Senior Center 20 years ago. Most mornings, she plays cards and chats with
her friends—who are affectionately known as the “Knights of the Round Table”—prior to lunch.
“It’s a good chance for me to get out of the house, have a warm lunch and have fellowship with my friends,” she expressed.
Before lunch is served at 11 a.m., a Southside board member invites everyone to stand, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and join in a short prayer. The seniors then make their way to the cafeteria-style serving line, where they receive their meal.
“I’ve never had anything I didn’t like here,” Dotty shared. “The chef is just wonderful and I always thank her for what she makes us. Plus, they will always make you a sandwich if you don’t want the main course.”
Southside is particularly packed when crowd-favorite lunches—like meatloaf or fried chicken—are served. The senior center receives many of the meal ingredients through Ozarks Food Harvest’s Retail Pickup Program. A portion of the food comes from local Walmart, Sam’s Club and Walmart Neighborhood Market stores, which donate nearly 4.5 million pounds of food to The Food Bank and its hunger relief partners each year.
“We’re particularly blessed by this longtime partnership with Walmart,” said Dan Bohannon, retail store donation coordinator at Ozarks Food Harvest. “It allows us to provide a lot of produce and protein-rich items to our partners, which ultimately helps put more meals on the table.”
Kendall Prall, senior center administrator for Southside, understands how important it is for seniors to get a hot, nutritious lunch every day. Over the past five years, she has met countless seniors who face food insecurity.
“So many of the people that we see here struggle to pay for medications, mortgages and other monthly bills,” she shared. “Because of Ozarks Food Harvest and the Retail Pickup Program, we’re able to provide seniors with a well-balanced meal. For the majority of them, it’s the only hot meal they’ll eat that day.”
Along with regularly donating food, Walmart, through a Feeding America grant, provided Southside Senior Center with a two-door cooler last September. Senior center staff fill it with ready-to-eat meals and snacks from Kum & Go, which also donates through Ozarks Food Harvest’s Retail Pickup Program.
“I like to take some food from the cooler home,” said Chuck, who visits the senior center several times a week. “It alleviates the need to cook something later in the day and helps me save money for other things. Plus, it tastes good and it’s easy to just eat from the fridge
or quickly warm up in the microwave when I get hungry.”
Thanks to Walmart and the Retail Pickup Program, seniors who are struggling to afford everyday expenses can get the nutrition they need.
“I’m thankful that we work with Ozarks Food Harvest,” Kendall said. “And, I know how appreciative the seniors are, too. They know that they can always come here to get a meal and find good community, no matter what else is going on in their lives.”