COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri is preparing to host its annual One for One Holiday Food and Fund Drive on Wednesday as it continues to see an increased need in the community.
Spokesperson Katie Adkins said the Food Bank saw a steep increase in need at the end of 2022, which has stayed steady throughout 2023. She said food insecurity has increased and trends continue to show people need more support.
The Food Bank serves a 32-county area, with Adkins saying it can serve around 100,000 people each month.
"The easiest thing to cut is cutting into your food budget," Adkins said. "You can't really cut into your rent budget, you can't really cut into your utilities budget, but you can cut down on the amount of food or the quality of food that you're eating."
She said in 2022, the Food Bank served 18,000 more people per month than it had previously. Throughout the last year, it provided the equivalent of 24 million meals, totaling about 30 million pounds of food.
Adkins said while she can't point to a specific reason for the increased need, prices continue to increase at the grocery store.
Still, Adkins said the Food Bank is having to find ways to adapt to continue to serve community members amid increased need and rising prices.
"We do have to purchase some of that food and we're spending two to three times more on food than we had pre-pandemic," Adkins said. "That's really significant and it is challenging to manage."
Along with gathering donations, she said the Food Bank also works with Retail Rescue to get items from stores that are either overstocked or close to their best-by dates.
"We're used to being adaptable and we'll continue to do that, but we know that we need our community to be able to do that," Adkins said.
Volunteers from Mexico High School said they have seen food insecurity firsthand in Mid-Missouri. Oliver Brilhante said he brings students with the school's Jobs for American Graduates program to the Food Bank each year, and said the work it does for the community is critical.
"This is just a way for (people) hopefully to bridge the gap between their monthly grocery bills and actually feeding their families," Brilhante said.
"It's all worth it in the end," said volunteer Jayda Mayweather. "It's worth it, it's helping out, it's giving back."
If people are looking to help, Adkins said monetary donations go the furthest. With a $25 dollar donation, the Food Bank is able to provide at least 100 meals to people in the community.
She said anyone looking to donate in the form of food is encouraged to donate any sort of canned goods or shelf-stable items. Items that she said are more expensive or challenging to get for the Food Bank include canned proteins such as peanut butter, canned chicken and canned tuna, and canned fruits and vegetables.
"The people that are needing food support are neighbors, friends, family members, even coworkers," Adkins said. "Just because people don't talk about that need doesn't mean that it's not there. So by supporting the Food Bank, you're serving many people that you don't know, but also probably some people you do know, as well."
Volunteer Hailey Long said she would go to food banks with her mom when she was younger, and said it's nice to be able to give back to the community.
"We'd go to food banks all the time," Long said. "It was kind of an insecurity I had by going, but now that I'm helping out, I just realize it's just people getting help without asking."
Anyone looking to help can learn more about volunteering or donating at sharefoodbringhope.org, or show up to the One for One Holiday Food and Fund Drive this week.
The 17th annual One for One Holiday Food and Fund Drive is taking place Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Columbia Mall and Buchheit in Jefferson City.
The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri partners with nearly 200 schools and 145 partner agencies, as well as mobile pantries.