A Florida resident traveling the country on a quest to volunteer at all 204 Feeding America food banks made a stop in Columbia today.
At The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri, Jess Kurti joined regular volunteers to help repackage cereal before visiting a Summer Food 4 Kids site.
This was her 144th volunteer stop since beginning her journey in 2012 when she lost her job after her company downsized. While she was able to manage, Kurti saw that former colleagues were not.
“Many of my co-workers, who had done everything right, were now struggling,” she said. “They could not relocate because of mortgages or family obligations. Many were trying to find two or three jobs to replace the salary they’d lost … I was beginning to understand the ripple effect from a crashing economy and what the face of hunger in my community really looked like.”
Kurti took a road trip across the U.S. to regroup, then returned to Florida with a commitment to dedicating her life to service. She began by becoming a regular volunteer at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
At the same time, Kurti was starting to participate in 50-state marathon challenge. That is when she got the idea to combine service with fitness, setting the goal of volunteering at all of the food banks in Feeding America’s network.
She has since seen first-hand the struggles Americans face and has a better understanding of the diverse populations impacted by food insecurity.
“Hunger doesn’t know boundaries or politics,” she said.
Kurti has also become more vocal about what she is seeing in hopes of raising awareness and support.
Kurti plans to volunteer at America’s Second Harvest of Greater St. Joseph and Harvesters The Community Food Network in Kansas City later this week.