Enlist in the fight against hunger

Maria Hoover, SBJ Features EditorWhen the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce announced its 2011 W. Curtis Strube Small Business of the Year on May 4, it brought to the forefront the reality that there are a lot of hungry people in southwest Missouri.

The award this year went to Ozarks Food Harvest, a nonprofit, Springfield-based food bank that 8.5 million pounds of food in 2010 and is expecting to distribute 10.5 million pounds this year.
That’s an impressive amount of food, but for this particular entity, perhaps growth isn’t necessarily a good thing, because it most likely means there are more people out there who need something to eat.

But that’s where we come in. During 11 years of covering southwest Missouri business news, I’ve heard time and again that this community has a giving spirit, and I’ve seen it demonstrated through United Way campaigns, fundraisers for disaster-stricken areas, toy drives for children at Christmas and myriad other situations where a stated need was met.

Most of us will go home this evening already thinking about what we’ll eat for dinner. Perhaps some already have plans in the works to fire up the barbecue grill or take a picnic to the park. But what if we didn’t have the resources to make sure our families go to bed with full stomachs?

It’s good for communities to have places where those in need can turn for help, but without people being willing to lend a hand, those places would have nothing to give.

There are a lot of ways to combat hunger in the Ozarks. Several local churches have small-scale food pantries. Food drives within offices can be fairly easy to organize, or maybe you just know of someone who could use a few canned goods or other edible items.

There are two opportunities right now that make it very easy to help.
The first is the National Association of Letter Carriers’ 19th annual food drive, Stamp Out Hunger, to be held May 14. Check your cabinets for surplus nonperishables or stop at the store on the way home. To donate, all you have to do is put the food in a bag and leave it at your mailbox, and your letter carrier will do the rest. Last year, the drive raised more than 121,000 pounds of food that was distributed in the Ozarks. This year, food collected will go to the Salvation Army, the Kitchen Inc. Grand Oak Mission and Victory Mission.

Another way to fight hunger might be to swing through an Arvest Bank branch to leave food or a monetary donation for the bank’s 1 Million Meals campaign, which will run through the end of May. On May 4, Arvest announced that it had exceeded 500,000 meals. All food will be distributed in the communities the bank serves.

In recent economic times, a lot of folks have had to stretch their dollars further.
The neat thing, however, about living in a community where people care, is that we can all do just a little bit to make a big difference – and to make sure that fewer families go to bed hungry in the weeks and months to come.

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