Hunger. We’ve all experienced it. The embarrassing tummy-rumble 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 and what can we do about it? According to the CEO of God’s Pantry Food Bank (GPFB), 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. Over 350,000 people struggle 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. In recent years, the economy has taken its toll on the greater population, leaving more households with a consistent lack of food to meet nutritional requirements. Fortunately, hunger is a curable disease GPFB works with more than 400 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 began distributing food to assist those in need. Over the years, GPFB grew into the large-scale hunger relief organization it is today. It was incorporated in 1979 and in 1984, GPFB became a member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest non-governmental, domestic hunger relief organization. Similarly, GPFB 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.
Marian has been with GPFB for more than 18 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, and has transitioned her passion for providing exceptional healthcare 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 through cooperation and making the best possible use of all available resources.”
Marian, along with the rest of the GPFB team, are excited about the projected growth and continued expansion of the organization. One example features the construction of the distribution center in Morehead, slated to open in late summer/fall of 2015, providing a nice addition to the warehouses located in Prestonsburg, Winchester, London and Lexington. Marian explains, “GPFB is so special because it’s small enough to be nimble and flexible but large enough to have the resources to identify the needs of each community to effectively offer solutions.” In order to continue innovating ways to provide nourishing meals, GPFB 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 and encourages people to bring in the highest quality of food possible. The agencies that GPFB 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 400 agencies total.
With such an extensive reach, GPFB needs our help to further their mission and offers multiple ways to get involved. These opportunities can range from giving financial contributions, volunteering at 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 includes getting involved with one of their fundraising events, like the 12th annual Golf Fore the Hungry. Not only will participants enjoy a golf scramble, a delicious dinner and silent auction, those involved will be making a significant difference in the lives of others. 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 $414,000 for GPFB. Three years ago, the golf outing introduced a women’s division.
Marian 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.”