Ozarks Food Harvest awards $1 million in grants after research shows need

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Citizens in southwest Missouri will be receiving more food assistance thanks to $1 million in grants awarded by Ozarks Food Harvest this week. 

Ozarks Food Harvest is the Feeding America food bank for southwest Missouri. It partners with Feeding America, a national network of food banks, to send daily supplies of food to 28 counties in southwest Missouri from its 100,000 square-foot distribution warehouse in Springfield.

The $1 million in grants were awarded to over 70 charities in Ozark Food Harvest’s hunger-relief network to help increase food distribution efforts and upgrade certain components such as freezers and refrigerators. 

The University of Missouri’s Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security recently conducted its “Food Assistance and Hunger in the Heartland” report for 2021. Findings proved that Ozarks Food Harvest supplies over 70% of the food distributed by a network of 270 partners covering a third of Missouri. 

“We had seen data specifically about our service area that included some interesting highlights,” said Ozarks Food Harvest Public Information Officer Jordan Browning. “One of those was that 25% of charities we provide services to said they could better serve their clients with improved or additional refrigeration and freezer units. That was one of the big prompts to issue this grant quickly. That way we could increase the capacity of the charities we are serving.”

Browning said another major concern from the report was that a third of Ozarks Food Harvest’s clients are seniors, which has quickly become one of their largest demographics.

“Because transportation can be an issue for an everyday person accessing our services, but especially seniors in our area, we are working with our local senior centers and senior housing authority sites to deliver fresh, nutritious produce every month for three years. We’re going to be distributing 720 cases per month, and that’s going to be a variety of produce.”

Ozarks Food Harvest also has its own mobile unit, which ramped up its services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mobile component includes refrigeration units to allow it to easily set up in parking lots and public areas to distribute food. Ozarks Food Harvest also runs a program called Full Circle Gardens, to which farmers can donate overflow crops.

“It’s a great program because there is such good involvement with the local communities in being able to make contacts with our local farmers, and they are helping give back to their local community,” Brown said. “It’s this really great system for everybody to work together.”

On top of its extensive food distribution efforts, Ozarks Food Harvest produces 50,000 pounds of its own food annually to give to its clients.

To learn more about Ozarks Food Harvest, visit their website here

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