Any person can suddenly face hardship and become vulnerable to food insecurity in the United States. Every day, people struggle to bring home nutritious food for themselves and their families — and every day Food Bank for the Heartland, based in Omaha, is working hard to change that across Nebraska and western Iowa.
“While every community is facing hunger, not every individual experiences it the same way,” says Stephanie Sullivan, communications and media relations manager for Food Bank for the Heartland. “There’s the senior in Long Pine who told us she lost her husband to COVID-19 and is now down to a single social security payment; the elementary student receiving meals from the Food Bank’s BackPack program because there’s not enough food to eat over the weekend; the veteran in Bellevue struggling to pay his medical bills; and the woman in Central City who was unable to support herself after an unexpected injury.”
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These people, young and old, wake up some mornings wondering where their next filling meal is going to come from. “The reality is, too many neighbors are being forced to make impossible decisions — such as paying for food or other necessities like rent and medication,” Sullivan says. It’s the goal of Food Bank for the Heartland to try to keep those decisions from becoming necessary, even as inflation and rising gas and food prices are working against them. “The Food Bank has seen the direct impact of rising costs. From May to June, we served 40% more households through our Network Partners,” says Sullivan. “We’re seeing more people than ever in need of food assistance, with many seeking help from food pantries for the first time.”
What does Food Bank for the Heartland do?
For over 40 years, Food Bank for the Heartland has functioned as a distribution center of food for 93 counties in Nebraska and western Iowa.
“We collect, store and package food for distribution to 589 network partners including pantries, shelters, meal providers, schools, churches and various nonprofits,” says Sullivan.
In the last fiscal year, the Food Bank has provided more than 27 million meals to neighbors in need across the Heartland.
How you can help
“The public can help support the Food Bank in a variety of ways, through monetary donations, food donations or volunteer time,” says Sullivan. “While all are vital in supporting our mission, the Food Bank can take a dollar and stretch it further because of our ability to purchase food in bulk. Right now, every dollar donated can provide up to four meals for a neighbor in need.”
Despite the hardships the Heartland has faced in recent years, the Food Bank has soldiered on in its fight against food insecurity. “It is a testament to the versatility and strength of our community to rally together in support of one another,” says Sullivan. “We need their support to continue as we face unprecedented times ahead.” For more information on how to donate funds or food or how to volunteer, visit foodbankheartland.org.