By Lauren Henry
Hunger. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another. The embarrassing tummy-rumble when meeting a client due to a delayed lunch or the mid-morning lack of focus resulting from a skipped breakfast. While temporary hunger-pangs are universal, what is it to be truly hungry? Who is affected by hunger in our state and what can we do about it? According to the CEO of God’s Pantry Food Bank, Marian Guinn, one in seven people living within the 50-county service area that the Food Bank reaches face malnutrition, uneasy or painful sensations resulting from insufficient or irregular food intake, and insecurity over where their next meal will come from. This means that over 330,000 people are struggling each day to feed themselves and their families in central and eastern Kentucky. Hunger diminishes the lives of many Kentuckians by draining resources from the elderly and forcing mothers to sacrifice meals so their children don’t have to. Additionally, in recent years, the economy has taken its toll on the greater population, leaving more and more households with a consistent lack of enough food to meet nutritional requirements. It strikes with unforeseen needs, overwhelming any who might be in a tight spot needing a helping hand. Fortunately, hunger is a curable problem, and today God’s Pantry Food Bank works with more than 275 partner agencies to fight hunger and alleviate the symptoms that accompany it.
Founded in 1955 out of the basement of her home, concerned citizen Mimi Hunt decided to take action and began distributing food to assist those in need. Over the years, God’s Pantry Food Bank grew into the large-scale hunger relief organization it is today. It was incorporated in 1979 and in 1984, God’s Pantry Food Bank became a member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest non-governmental, domestic hunger relief organization. Similarly, God’s Pantry Food Bank is also a member of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, joining together the seven Feeding America Food Banks working in Kentucky to optimize the effectiveness and reach of the efforts being made to best serve the state. Feeding America’s network extends over 200 food banks and food-rescue organizations serving every county in the U.S. to create a hunger-free America. “Working with God’s Pantry Food Bank provides the opportunity for one person to make a difference in a big way,” shares Marian, the Food Bank’s CEO. Marian has been with God’s Pantry Food Bank for 17 years and lives for the challenge of improving health of all Kentuckians. Prior to her time with the Food Bank, Marian worked at the University of Kentucky Hospital for ten years seeking to make a difference in providing exceptional healthcare to the citizens of the Bluegrass and has transitioned her passion for providing exceptional care to providing healthy and nutritious meals to all those in need. She explains, “the simple actions and efforts to provide food and reduce hunger is critical to the overall good of our community and state through cooperation and making the best possible use of all available resources.” And with Marian at the helm, God’s Pantry Food Bank is doing just that.
On July first of this year, the agency launched their new fiscal year and Marian, along with the rest of the GPFB team, are excited about the projected growth and continued expansion of the organization. One such example features the construction of the distribution center in Morehead, Kentucky slated to open in January of 2015, providing a nice addition to the warehouses located in Prestonburg, Winchester and Lexington. Marian explains, “God’s Pantry Food Bank is so special because it’s small enough of an organization to be nimble and flexible in what we do but large enough to have the resources to identify the needs of each given community to effectively offer solutions.” In order to continue innovating ways to provide nourishing meals, God’s Pantry Food Bank brings in food resources from all across the country, not just from here in the Bluegrass and of these resources, close to 50% of the food are perishable and frozen options. This debunks the stereotype that food banks merely provide canned foods to encourage those who can donate to focus on bringing in and giving the highest quality of food possible. The agencies that God’s Pantry Food Bank serves across the 50 counties of central and eastern Kentucky include emergency food pantries, homeless shelters, abuse centers, senior programs, soup kitchens and children’s homes, numbering over 275 agencies total.
With such an extensive reach, God’s Pantry Food Bank needs help to further their mission and offers multiple ways to get involved and give back to the community. These opportunities can range from giving financial contributions, volunteering at one of the distribution centers, becoming an advocate for the cause by speaking to state officials, to organizing a food drive specifically for canned vegetables, fruits, peanut butter and cereal; all these items are in great demand for our area. Another option to make a difference with God’s Pantry Food Bank includes getting involved with one of their stellar fundraising events, like the 11th annual Golf Fore the Hungry set for Sunday August 17, 2014 and Monday August 18, 2014. Not only will participants enjoy a golf scramble, a delicious dinner and silent auction, those involved in the festivities will be making a significant difference in the lives of others in need. Golf Fore the Hungry was created in 2004 by the Northeast Christian Church to raise awareness and provide an outlet for individuals, business and churches to deliver hope. Since its inception, this event has raised over $291,000 for God’s Pantry Food Bank with last year’s two-day fundraiser reaching more than $49,000; the largest amount raised in the Golf Fore the Hungry nine-year history. Two years ago, the golf outing introduced a women’s division and Marian’s team has won the past two years. “I am excited to have some bigger and better competition this year so I’m calling on other women to show up and step up. Even if that means my team doesn’t win, it will be thrilling to have more individuals, particularly women, come out and participate in this incredible event.” She muses, “great things are in store for Kentucky if we can solve the hunger issue.” Her words echo and resonate within as she urges us, “Never underestimate the ability to make a difference and a lasting impact by taking action and getting involved.”