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Study: Nearly 1 in 5 in southwest Missouri need help affording meals

March 24, 2011|by Chad Plein, KY3 News | cplein@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Ozarks Food Harvest had some good news and some unwanted news on Thursday morning.

The good news is the Walmart State Giving Program offered a challenge grant to Ozarks Food Harvest.  The Walmart Foundation will match up to $125,000 raised for the food bank in the second annual Ozarks Million Dollar Hunger Challenge.  This is the second year the Walmart Foundation has been involved.

"Hunger has a different face than it even had a year ago," Becky Wood of the Walmart Foundation said, "so we're just happy to be a part of it, helping them accomplish their mission while also accomplishing ours."

That money can provide up to 2.5 million pounds of food -- and that's where the not-so-good news comes: that food is needed.  The Ozarks Food Harvest just received data from a landmark study on food insecurity.  It's a stat that goes beyond someone living under the poverty line.

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The study shows 17 percent of the Ozarks population, or about 178,000 people, don’t know when they're getting their next meal.  Of that number, almost 43,000 people are not considered to be in poverty, so they don’t qualify for any state food assistance, and thus are dependent on food banks.  The bank attributes this number to unemployment lingering from the weakened economy.

"These folks are not very visible to us,"Ozarks Food Harvest CEO, Bart Brown said.  "They're still living in their middle class houses, and there's a stigma attached to going to a food bank especially when your neighbors are working."

In the KY3 area, Shannon County is one of the top five counties with the highest rate of food insecurity in the state.

The Ozarks Food Harvest serves that county, along with 27 others.

Every $1 donated to the Ozarks Food Harvest provides $10 worth of food distribution.
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Edited news release:

SPRINGFIELD—A $125,000 gift to Ozarks Food Harvest from the Walmart Foundation State Giving Program will be utilized by The Food Bank as a challenge grant opportunity to raise funds with the aid of affiliate community foundations of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to reach individuals who are not eligible for any government assistance, but need charitable help.

Ozarks Food Harvest and CFO named the program the “Ozarks Million Dollar Hunger Challenge”—as the $125,000 will essentially be leveraged more than $1 million worth of food—because for every one dollar donated to Ozarks Food Harvest, it provides $10 worth of food distribution. This is the second year for the partnership between the two organizations, thanks to a gift from the Walmart Foundation State Giving Program.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to partner again with the Walmart Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks,” said Bart Brown, president/CEO at Ozarks Food Harvest. “Last year’s challenge provided our member food pantries with additional resources to help meet the increased need. The new challenge we now face is narrowing that gap between food insecurity and food security.”

According to a recent Feeding America® study, the food insecurity rate within Ozarks Food Harvest’s 28-county service area is 16.9 percent. While half of the 177,870 food insecure individuals are eligible for SNAP, WIC and other assistance and 26 percent are eligible for WIC and other assistance, 24 percent are not eligible for any government assistance, and must rely on Ozarks Food Harvest’s network of more than 300 member food pantries and feeding sites. Brown says the 24 percent is a bigger problem than once anticipated.

“Those who have recently lost their jobs are more effected by recent poverty than those who have been unemployed, underemployed or face serial unemployment,” Brown said.

CFO members will have the opportunity to partner with OFH member food pantries in each of their communities to raise funds which will be matched by the Walmart Foundation State Giving Program, according to Brown. Ozarks Food Harvest is leveraging gifts from both the Walmart Foundation State Giving Program and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks to help address agency and distribution gaps in its 28-county service area.

“This study and partnership supports Ozarks Food Harvest’s strategic three-year initiative to distribute 12 million pounds of food by our fiscal year 2012, and will allow us to address distribution gaps by increasing the number of pounds we distribute, adding new agencies to address gaps in service and growing our direct service programs to meet needs,” Brown said.

Brown says the board of directors at Ozarks Food Harvest is currently establishing the next three to five–year strategic business plan and that the second annual Ozarks Million Dollar Hunger Challenge will help address needs.

About Ozarks Food Harvest­–The Food Bank

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