Ozarks Food Harvest conducts a mobile produce pantry distribution in Hartville. (Photo: Ozarks Food Harvest)

Ozarks Food Harvest provided 20 million meals in the past year through its network of community and faith-based charities across a third of the state of Missouri.

According to a study by the University of Missouri in partnership with Feeding Missouri, Ozarks Food Harvest supplies seven out of every 10 meals distributed by its network.

“Even as many people return to work, the demand is still high for food assistance in Southwest Missouri,” said Tommy Wohlgemuth, CFO and COO at SGC Foodservice. He is Ozarks Food Harvest’s outgoing board president. “The board recognizes that further investments in our community will be necessary to get families on the road to recovery.”

Increased distribution through mobile, drive-thru services

From July 2021 to June 2022, the Ozarks Food Harvest Food Bank invested in its 28-county service area by increasing distribution through its mobile food pantry program, drive-thru food pantries and mobile produce pantry. It also awarded $1 million in grants to its network to help sustain and expand hunger-relief efforts across Southwest Missouri.

More than 900,000 meals were distributed through mobile food pantries to help feed more than 50,000 individuals facing hunger across the Ozarks. The Food Bank also spent more than $2.5 million in food purchases, a half-million more than last fiscal year. In total, Ozarks Food Harvest has distributed more than 23 million pounds of food, including 4.2 million pounds of fresh produce.

Ozarks Food Harvest’s retail pick-up program had a record-breaking year by rescuing 7 million pounds of edible food from being wasted. The program coordinates pick-ups of food donations like fresh produce, frozen meat and dairy from more than 140 grocers every week.

“Our work has been more important than ever in the past year as folks continue to deal with increased prices for food,” said Bart Brown, president and CEO of Ozarks Food Harvest. “We’re in it for the long haul to ensure children, families and seniors don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from.”

One in five children and one in six adults face hunger in Southwest Missouri, meaning they are unsure where their next meal will come from. Through its network of 270 charities, Ozarks Food Harvest serves 50,000 unduplicated children, families and seniors each month.

Jeff Kessinger

Jeff Kessinger covered sports in southwest Missouri for the better part of 20 years, from young athletes to the pros. The Springfield native and Missouri State University alumnus is thrilled to be doing journalism in the Queen City, helping connect the community with important information. He and wife Jamie daily try to keep a tent on the circus that is a blended family of five kids and three cats. More by Jeff Kessinger