Feeding the Hungry: CFO Affiliates Rising to the Challenge

A number of Community Foundation affiliates are working to meet the June 30 deadline for the “Ozarks Million Dollar Hunger Challenge” where up to $100,000 in matching funds is available to help the Ozarks Food Harvest leverage $1 million worth of food.

The Challenge has been made possible by a $100,000 gift from the Walmart Foundation State Giving Program available to match each dollar raised through the CFO’s network of participating affiliates, which largely mirrors the Ozarks Food Harvest’s 29-county service area across southern Missouri.

The Challenge grant was developed in response to a dramatic report – “Hunger in America 2010” – that described the extent to which hunger continues to plague Ozarks communities. Made even more pronounced by the recession, chronic hunger diminishes the lives of some 155,000 Ozarks residents a year.

“According to the landmark “Hunger in America” survey, 25 percent of food pantry clients in southwest Missouri have been laid off in the past 18 months,” says Bart Brown, President and CEO of the Ozarks Food Harvest. “More compelling, one in four of those clients were laid off from professional or managerial jobs.  We’re seeing a new type of client – the unemployed middle class.

“These people have assets such as homes and cars, and if they can manage to hold onto them, these assets disqualify them for federal food programs,” he adds. “The need for private food assistance here in the Ozarks will continue to increase for the next several years because we will be dealing with sustained long-term unemployment, higher and deeper poverty levels, and dramatic increases in food insecurity.”

Brown and the OFH staff are gratified by the feedback they receive from clients who have found the food bank’s network of programs, including the mobile food pantries, the Weekend Backpack Program and the Kids Café, which serves hot meals or snacks to about 1,000 children each night in 26 Ozarks communities.

Here are some examples of what they’ve told the Ozarks Food Harvest:

“A lot of times we don’t have enough stuff to put a meal together. We eat a can of vegy for a meal or sometimes plain rice. If it was not for the pantry, we would not eat at all.

–Rebecca, age 42

“At the age of 31, I lost my job, couldn’t get any assistance, had two young children and I went to the restaurant dumpster each evening to get whatever food  I could to feed my kids. For about two and a half months, that was how I fed my family.”

–Kerry, age 40

“I’m hungry all the time. It gets on my nerves. It makes me have a big tummy ache. Geez.”

–Wade, age 5

One of the benefits of tackling hunger through the Ozarks Food Harvest is that it is able to use its network of resources to leverage about $10 in food for every $1 donated, which is why the $100,000 Walmart grant has the capacity to leverage $1 million in food.

For more information on how to help CFO affiliates meet their challenge goals, please e-mail Winter Skelton, Development Operations Coordinator, or call 417-864-6199.

On the Web:

This animated graphic visualizes the spread of unemployment across the United States.

This “Hunger in the Ozarks” video was presented by the Jeannette L. Musgrave Foundation, the Roy W. Slusher Foundation, and the Lelia Heuer Foundation.