Supporting a proud population: Mobile helps Southern Cherokee Tribe

Members of Southern Cherokee Tribe in Phelps County are proud of their culture and history. They describe their ancestors as courageous, honorable and loyal—traits they aspire to, as well.

They are also hungry.

The population of about 500 Southern Cherokee living in and around Phelps County is so impoverished that social service agencies in the area reached out to The Food Bank seeking assistance. The problem? Many members were reluctant to accept help from outsiders.

That is where tribal leaders have stepped in. Chief Steve Matthews and his wife, Darla, have worked closely with The Food Bank to get food to fellow Tribe members.

Many have warmed up to the idea of accepting food at a Mobile Pantry, where Matthews and other Southern Cherokee leaders volunteer.

“Tribe members wouldn’t go otherwise,” Matthews said. “When people they know are running it, they are more comfortable.”

The pantry is now serving nearly 100 families, about a quarter of which are members of the Tribe.

“This really helps,” said Travis, a client and volunteer. “A million times, thank you to those who
donate and the generosity of those who help with this.”

Ancestors of the Southern Cherokee were among the first Federally Recognized Band of the
Cherokee Nation and the group that ultimately followed Major Ridge to Oklahoma prior to the Trail of Tears.

The Tribe later sought refuge in Southern Missouri. The state was not welcoming, forcing many to live in isolation. The result has been limited access to education, nutrition-related health issues and generational poverty.

“We relied on hunting and fishing, and to a great extent, many of us still do,” Matthews said. “But the Mobile Pantry helps out a lot. Everybody loves it.”

The Food Bank celebrates 35 years

The Food Bank this month celebrated its 35th anniversary with an Open House event featuring a Columbia Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting, tours, culinary demonstrations and volunteer opportunities.
The event also celebrated the donors, volunteers, partner agencies and other friends who make the work of The Food Bank possible.
The Food Bank began as a grassroots effort in September 1981 in Boone County. Today, the organization serves an average of 104,000 individuals every month across a 32-county service area.
Over its 35 years, The Food Bank has begun a number of programs targeted to get food into the hands of those who need it. Today, one of our most significant programs is the Buddy Pack Program, which provides bags of nutritious food to children who receive free or reduced-price lunch at school. These bags of kid-friendly food are taken home on Friday and for some children represents the only nutrition they have when they are not at school. 
Additionally, The Food Bank provide 1,800 senior boxes each month to help older adults supplement their diets.
This year, the organization has begun piloting a program to assist U.S. Veterans. The VIP Veteran Pack program began in Boone County in May and provides shelf-stable, easy-to-open meals for local veterans living at or below poverty.
“We could not do this work without your support,” Executive Director Lindsay Young Lopez said during brief remarks at the anniversary event. “You donations, your volunteer work, your friendship truly makes possible our mission of sharing food and bringing hope.”


Columbia Orthopaedic Group Becomes Presenting Sponsor of Score Against Hunger campaign

Columbia Orthopaedic Group has become the presenting sponsor of the 2016 Missouri Tigers Score Against Hunger campaign, which will be held throughout The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri’s entire 32-county service area for the first time ever.

The campaign is The Food Bank’s largest fundraising effort. Each fall, it challenges University of Missouri football fans to get in on the action by pledging a dollar amount per point scored during the season or by directing an outright gift to the Tigers’ campaign.

Missouri Tigers Score Against Hunger began in 1995 under then MU Football Head Coach Larry Smith and continued under the helm of Coach Gary Pinkel. This year, Head Coach Barry Odom has agreed to carry on the tradition and participate.

“With excitement around a new season under a new coach, we decided it was a good year to expand the campaign to all of our counties,” said Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director. “We know there are Tigers fans throughout central and northeast Missouri, so we wanted to make sure they had an opportunity to participate, as well.”

Donations from Score go directly into the acquisition and distribution of food to those in need. As of June 30, the half-way point in the fiscal year, The Food Bank had distributed 15.7 million pounds to 132 partner agencies in the service area.

Missouri Tigers Score Against Hunger also encourages businesses and individuals to make leadership gifts, and those who do so are invited to a Victory Luncheon at the end of the season featuring Coach Odom. Columbia Orthopaedic Group has reached the Touchdown line, the highest sponsorship level possible.


“Columbia Orthopaedic Group has been a tremendous partner to us over the years,” Lopez said. “We hope the group’s example inspires others to join us in the ongoing fight against hunger in our communities.”

The Food Bank becomes Official Charitable Partner of Mizzou Athletics

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri has become the Official Charitable Partner of University of Missouri Athletics.

The partnership expands Missouri Tigers Score Against Hunger, a 22-year old campaign under the helm of the MU Football Program.

"We are thrilled to build upon the longtime relationship we have enjoyed with Mizzou Athletics," said Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank. "The university does so much for us throughout the year, this agreement really reflects on MU's commitment to giving back to those in need in our community."

Missouri Tigers Score Against Hunger began in 1995 under then Head Coach Larry Smith and continued under former Coach Gary Pinkel. New Head Coach Barry Odom has expressed his commitment to carrying on its success.

The campaign encourages sponsorships and outright gifts, but also challenges individuals to pledge a dollar amount to The Food Bank for every point the Tigers score during the season.

Since its inception, Score Against Hunger has brought in more than $9 million in outright gifts, in-kind donations and sponsorships, all of which has gone into the acquisition and distribution of food to those in need. The campaign has also become The Food Bank's largest annual fundraising effort.

This year, Score will also be held throughout The Food Bank's 32-county service area for the first time. For its designation as Mizzou Athletics' official charitable partner, The Food Bank teamed with Learfield's local Mizzou Sports Properties team to coordinate efforts on behalf of the athletic department. Learfield is University of Missouri's long-time athletics multimedia rights and sponsorship partner.

"It's a pleasure to work closely with The Food Bank and help support this outstanding effort all of us are capable of backing," said Mizzou Sports Properties General Manager Nick Garner. "It is affirming to see the growth and major strides this campaign has made in its 22 years with the Tigers, and we look forward to continued success."

"Becoming Mizzou Athletics' official charity signifies a new era for the Score campaign," Lopez said. "We certainly know there are Tigers fans throughout our 32 counties, and we wanted to give them an opportunity to be part of the team's fundraising efforts."

Florida woman volunteering at all 204 food banks makes stop in Columbia

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. 

Heat does not deter dedicated volunteers

  Lyn Garven

Lyn Garven

By Grace Borhart
The Food Bank Staff

Fayette’s Mobile Pantry Thursday held a heat index of 106 without a cloud in the sky. The National Weather Service warned of excessive heat and suggested everyone stay inside, but volunteers Ralph Evans, 59, and Lyn Garven, 70, reported for duty just like they do every month.

“They’ve gone above and beyond to show up in this heat,” Melissa Schulte, agency relations coordinator for The Food Bank, said..

The day was so hot that the Mobile Pantry had to be moved forward an hour so clients and volunteers would not be outside at noon. Regardless, Evans and Garven worked through the morning, taking breaks only at the urging of Schulte when no clients were in line.

Both Garven and Evans have come to volunteer almost every month since the mobile began in October. Some months volunteers from Central Methodist University join them, but other months it is just the two of them working with The Food Bank staff to sort food and hand out boxes.

“The number of volunteers varies, but we can always depend on Ralph and Lyn to be there,” Schulte says.

Both men have volunteered for Fayette’s food pantry for years, as well.

Evans, who receives dialysis three days a week, even schedules his medical appointments so that he can be free on days the pantry is open. He said he makes an effort to volunteer at the pantry any time he can because, “it’s mostly older people. I’m not as old as they are, so I can still get around and bend over and all that.”

Dedicated volunteers are an invaluable part of The Food Bank operations. Fayette’s Mobile Pantry distributed food to 67 households in two and a half hours this month.

“You meet a lot of people, and it just helps,” Garven said. “It’s good to help when you can.”


Exchange student impressed with Central Pantry

Uenny Kim has been surprised by many things since arriving in the U.S. for the first time ever last month, not the least of which has been the generosity of those around her at Central Pantry.

“This is a meaningful place with kind people,” she said. “Very respectful.”

Kim, who is from South Korea, is working at Central Pantry as part of an exchange program through the University of Missouri’s Asian Affairs Center. The idea is to provide participants the opportunity to test their English language skills in an immersive environment.

Kim is not the only one to benefit from the experience. Central Pantry clients have also enjoyed meeting someone from another country, said Sean Ross, pantry manager.

“It’s cool for clients to meet and have conversations with her,” he said. “The whole point is communication, so I’ve been encouraging her to interact with clients. She has only heard English spoken by other Asians, so it’s good for her to hear different dialects.”

Kim says she understands about 60% of what is being said around her, but added that her English has improved in the past few weeks.

This is the second year Central Pantry has participated in the exchange program.

Farm to Table Fun station introduces children to new produce

 Children make fruit pizzas at the Farm to Table Fun station at Central Pantry.

Children make fruit pizzas at the Farm to Table Fun station at Central Pantry.

Summer Food 4 Kids is now underway in Columbia, and children at the Central Pantry site are getting more than a free lunch.

On Tuesday, children had the opportunity to try new fruits and vegetables at the Farm to Table Fun station, an activity booth designed to teach participants how food is grown.

“I’ve never had one this way before,” said one boy who had never eaten a raw carrot before.

One set of 5-year-old twins tried kiwi for the first time, as well.

Tomatoes, honeydew, grapes, strawberries and blueberries were also on the table for sampling.

The Farm to Table Fun station will be open every weekday during Summer Food 4 Kids, which runs through Aug. 12. 

Activities will include making produce-themed recipes, reading books about agriculture and planting seeds. On Wednesday, rain moved the activities inside Central Pantry, where children made fruit-topping pizza. Other Farm to Table Fun activities will include coloring, reading and planting seeds. 


Veterans United Foundation donates $19,440 to support VIP Pack Program

 Anthony Gray, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, picks up a VIP Pack at Central Pantry.

Anthony Gray, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, picks up a VIP Pack at Central Pantry.

The Veterans United Foundation, the charitable arm of Veterans United Home Loans, announced it is donating $19,440 in support of The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri’s new VIP Veteran Pack pilot program. The donation ensures the local food bank will be able to extend the program several additional months.

VIP Veteran Packs are boxes of nutritional food that are selected with the needs of Veterans in mind. Boxes include ready-to-eat entrees and fruits, vegetables and soup in easy-to-open cans. Peanut butter, beef sticks and soft nutritional bars are also included, with personal care items rounding out the kit.

“Ensuring our local Veterans have access to proper nutrition is paramount,” said Miranda Giger, Veterans United Foundation outreach coordinator. “Our foundation is proud to support this new program that addresses the needs of our low-income Veteran population.”

Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank, said she is thrilled to have Veterans United Foundation on board with the pilot project.

“This is new territory for us, so the support of this foundation affirms that we are correct when thinking that this very important population is deserving of extra nutrition,” she said. “While we are still looking for creative ways to make this a permanent program, the Veterans United Foundation’s support will allow us to have more time to operate and evaluate the VIP Veteran Pack pilot program.”

VIP Veteran Packs are now being distributed at the Central Pantry, which serves about 300 Veterans a month, as well as to Veterans living or seeking help at Welcome Home and Patriot Place. There are about 650 Veterans in Boone County living at or below the poverty line. In The Food Bank’s service area, there are more than 5,000 Veterans living in poverty.

“Ideally, if the Boone County program becomes permanent, we would like to be able to replicate the VIP Veteran Pack program in each of the 32 counties we serve,” Lopez said. “But we will be strategic about implementation and ensure that we have the necessary resources to make this a reality. We certainly think it is an effort worth pursuing.” 


Cage-free egg donation will bring hope, smiles to hungry

 Larry Higgins and his nephew, Cody Kuttenkuler, wrap a pallet of eggs to be transported to The Food Bank.

Larry Higgins and his nephew, Cody Kuttenkuler, wrap a pallet of eggs to be transported to The Food Bank.

LH Poultry LLC in Moniteau County this week donated more than 66,000 cage-free eggs to The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri—a gift that will not only bring hope but also smiles to thousands across central and northeast Missouri. 

“While we get some eggs from a retail distributor in our service area, we do not always have them to give to our clients,” said Don Moore, food solicitor. “But we know eggs are an excellent source of protein and Vitamin D—and they are versatile and tasty. We are thrilled to be able to get them into the hands of people who cannot afford to buy them at the store.”
The average price nationally for a dozen eggs last month was $2.97, a 50% increase from just two years ago, according to the Labor Department.

For Larry Higgins, the donation allowed him to move some of his product without having to waste anything. 

“I had a lot of extra eggs and didn’t want to pitch them,” he said at his home on Chicken House Road near Tipton. 

When an acquaintance suggested donating them to The Food Bank, Higgins did not hesitate. 

“It’s for a good cause, and it helps people,” he said.

Transporting thousands of raw eggs in the back of a refrigerated box truck is not an easy feat. 
The eggs are put in flats, which hold 30 eggs and do not have lids. After stacking pallets with 72 flats, egg pallets wrapped with stretch wrap and wheeled to the truck.

Despite having to drive on a gravel road and over a few bumps on I-70, driver Albert Gainwell successfully delivered the eggs to The Food Bank warehouse without cracking a single one.

The eggs will now be distributed at Central Pantry and through the Mobile Pantry program, which sends refrigerated box trucks to low-income communities where brick-and-mortar pantries are not available. 

“This operation depends on the generosity of donors like Higgins, as well as the commitment of dedicated staff like Albert,” said Bobbie Kincade, associate director. “We appreciate both of them for making it possible for our clients to have healthy, delicious eggs.”


Central Pantry feeding site to include produce-themed activities

Children participating in Summer Food 4 Kids at Central Pantry in Columbia will have an extra treat.

A mini classroom will be set up outside of the feeding area where The Food Bank staff will promote farm-to-table fun using a variety of activities. Days will include "cooking" demonstrations, allowing children to make their own fruit salads, banana deserts, carrot pops using 100% carrot juice and other produce-related activities. Story and coloring days will also teach children about fresh fruits and vegetables. And "plant a seed" days will demonstrate how to plant a variety of fruits and vegetables. Supplies are coming from a No Kid Hungry grant from Share Our Strength, with seeds and planting supplies donated by the University of Missouri's Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security.

"We're really excited about this new program," said Stacey Brown, children's program coordinator at The Food Bank. "We know healthy habits start early. This will allow us to introduce or reinforce to children the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables."

Summer Food 4 Kids begins July 5 in Columbia. The program runs from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday through Aug. 12. Total Care Health and Mike Kelly/HM Risk are helping to sponsor the Columbia feeding locations this year.

Summer Food 4 Kids provides lunches at no charge to children 18 and under during the summer months when school is not in session. Lunches include sandwiches, milk and at least one fruit or vegetable.

In Kirksville, the program, including lunches, games and activities, began earlier this month at four sites.

In Jefferson City, children are allowed to pick up pre-bagged lunches at any of four sites starting June 27.

Ballard 'retires' after decade of volunteer service

 Marion and Shirley Ballard with Volunteer Room staff, from left, Teresa Coleman, Emily Herrell, John Itschner and Taylor Perry.

Marion and Shirley Ballard with Volunteer Room staff, from left, Teresa Coleman, Emily Herrell, John Itschner and Taylor Perry.

It is the end of an era at The Food Bank.

Marion Ballard, who has volunteered five days a week since 2006, has retired.

Employees, fellow volunteers, family and friends gathered to celebrate his contributions to The Food Bank on May 19, giving him and his wife, Shirley, a standing ovation for their volunteer efforts.

"The Food Bank family loves you and will miss you terribly," Executive Director Lindsay Young Lopez said during her remarks.

Ballard was born in Bagnell, Mo., in 1924. He was drafted into the Army in 1943 and served until 1946. The following year, he earned a degree in agriculture from the University of Missouri and began teaching in Osceola, where he met Shirley.

The couple moved to Columbia in 1954, where they raised three daughters and a son, all of whom graduated from Hickman High School.

Ballard retired from a position at MU in 1987.

In the volunteer room, Ballard has logged more than 10,000 hours and has helped assemble 128,000 senior boxes--an investment of time and labor that surpasses any other individual or group.

In addition to repacking food, Ballard also helped the volunteer staff fix equipment when needed, and he loaned The Food Bank his truck to pick up pears and apples from area orchards.

Ballard has also made an impact on fellow volunteers. 
During his retirement reception, several praised him for showing them the ropes and for making volunteering a positive experience.

Last year, an anonymous donor made a $10,000 contribution in the Ballards' honor, creating the Marion and Shirley Ballard Buddy Pack Fund.

"Marion has made a lasting impact," Lopez said. "The Food Bank is a better operation because of his contributions."