NON-PROFIT SPOTLIGHT: GOD'S PANTRY

By Lauren Henry Rogers

 

One in six Kentuckians are unsure where their next meal will come from. God’s Pantry is here to help.

In a food-centric world, it is difficult to imagine ever being without. Goals are made around visiting every new restaurant opening in town. Social media feeds are flooded by images of the latest and greatest trending recipes. Meal prepping has become a weekly tradition once a car full of groceries is unloaded from the supermarket.

But there are a staggering number of people who could never imagine this reality as their own.

One in six of our own Kentucky residents do not know where their next meal will come from, a statistic that brings shudders to all hearts. This equates to about 253,460 people in just the central and eastern parts of our state right now who are at risk of going hungry. Thankfully, there is an incredible organization in our midst working diligently to end hunger for good: God’s Pantry.

God’s Pantry Food Bank serves fifty counties in Central and Eastern Kentucky with the mission to reduce hunger through community cooperation by making the best possible use of all available resources. God’s Pantry Food Bank CEO and President, Michael Halligan says, “Food is a catalyst for delivering hope. It’s about helping people get to a better place in life.” With this goal always at the forefront, God’s Pantry has had a remarkable history for delivering hope, and meals, to those in need. For example, from July 1 – October 31, 2018, 34.5 million pounds of food were distributed throughout Central and Eastern Kentucky culminating to about 10,579,123 meals created with over 13.6 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to their service areas. Food is received by God’s Pantry in one of three ways: donations, USDA Government Commodity Programs and purchased products to supplement the available inventory.

“God’s Pantry really helps to close the gap, so to speak,” shares one food bank recipient, “and it makes our meals go a much longer way.”

Hunger does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, all backgrounds and across all locations. Less than a month ago, a Fayette County teacher shared that one of her students who had been out of school for a few days approached her and asked, “Can I talk to you for a second?”  “Sure,” she replied, “What’s going on?” Though she wasn’t entirely prepared for his answer, she listened with an open mind, and an open heart. “I’m hungry,” he responded. “I’ve been at home and my mom doesn’t have money to get food right now.”

Unfortunately, this story is not un-common; more than one in five of our Kentucky children experience food insecurity on a daily basis. “It’s hard for children to learn or be active when they are hungry,” shares Katie, one of the God’s Pantry Food Bank employees. She continues, “Our programs provide food at times when schools are closed, like weekends and summer break. By doing my job at God’s Pantry Food Bank, I am able to help kids be their best every day.”

What’s more, Kentucky is ranked sixth in the nation for having one out of every ten elderly persons being unsure of what and if they will have something to eat each day. Christin, a faithful volunteer of God’s Pantry Food Bank urges, “everyone should have access to enough nutritious food to accomplish what they need to in a normal day. With so much food available it’s important that we work harder at making sure that excess food reaches hungry people.”

 “Everyone should have access to enough nutritious food to accomplish what they need to in a normal day. With so much food available it’s important that we work harder at making sure that excess food reaches hungry people.”

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding hunger is that hunger affects people without money or without resources. “The reality is that most hungry people have some form of income, but they do not have enough income to sustain themselves properly,” Michael Halligan clarifies.

In an effort to combat the hunger plaguing our state, this past March, the Kentucky Hunger Initiative was launched, “the first ever of its kind to address food insecurity in our state,” says Ryan Quarles, the KDA Commissioner of Agriculture.” Quarles continues, “There’s not a one size fits all solution for Kentucky because it is such a regional state. For example, what might work great in deep Eastern Kentucky may not work or be implemented in Louisville.”

On that end, the need to focus on each county individually is quite imperative to best serve the needs of the community depending on what those specific needs are. Currently, there are 433 partner food pantries and meal programs across the state and in the Fayette County Program alone there are fifty-one providers in partnership with God’s Pantry ready to serve. As Michael Halligan often says, “You don’t end hunger with a food bank: you end hunger through a food bank by getting food into the community where hunger exists.”

Together, we can end hunger. We can instill hope and we can help to change lives for the better. We can make an impact in helping God’s Pantry Food Bank meet and exceed their 2019 goals with a plethora of unique opportunities. Here are some great ways to get involved.

Volunteer:

There are a number of ways to get involved for those who would like to volunteer their time in the fight against hunger with God’s Pantry Food Bank. These can include signing up for warehouse shifts, pantry shifts where you help clients check-in and gather food, processing phone referrals from social service agencies, arranging for client food pickup as a Central Intake Volunteer or providing meals and snacks to children outside of school hours through the Kids Café and Backpack Programs.

Advocate:

The best way to advocate for hunger by contacting our lawmakers to continue fighting this serious, though often hidden problem targeting Kentucky’s children, seniors and families. When contacted, lawmakers listen. Talk to your representatitves today.

Give:

There are several ways to give to God’s Pantry Food Bank to make a difference. Whether it is through donations or participating in fabulous events like Taste of The Bluegrass and Golf for the Hungry or throwing down in Kentucky’s Chili Wars, every bit adds up to help in this charitable endeavor. Visit godspantry.org to find out more about their upcoming events and help make 2019 the most successful year yet for fighting hunger!  •

 

 

 



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