Our Opinion: Volunteers join to alleviate hunger

The numbers are staggering, but the most important is the lone volunteer who helps feed needy people through the regional food bank.

At this time of year, we extend our thanks to the Central Missouri volunteers who contributed to a food drive, helped collect items or participated in the subsequent distribution.

Those individuals joined a massive effort to distribute 1.1 million pounds of food through 135 partner agencies served by the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri.

Those partners include soup kitchens, shelters and low-income programs for children and seniors. The distribution area includes 18,000 square miles in 32 counties.

Collecting and distributing food within that immense area is made possible by individual volunteers who formed a combined force of 33,796 people donating 81,549 hours of work, according to Peggy Kirkpatrick, executive director of the regional food bank.

Applying the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the monetary value of volunteer assistance translates to $591,230.

In Cole County alone, 1,213 volunteers have donated 2,510 hours, and counting.

As an example, volunteers assist in packing Buddy Packs for qualified elementary school students. In Cole County, 895 children receive Buddy Packs during the school year. Food 4 Kids — the summer version of the program — provided 2,810 meals to qualified children at designated county sites last summer.

In addition to packing Buddy Packs, regional food bank volunteers sort food at the food bank, pick fruit at area orchards, help with food drives and fundraising events, serve on the board of directors and more, according to Kirkpatrick.

Reflecting on the value of volunteers, Kirkpatrick said: “One of the greatest gifts anyone can give to another is the gift of time. When it is freely given and focused on helping a neighbor in need, the world changes — if only for a moment.”

The number of people in need also has reached staggering proportions. U.S. Census data recently classified nearly one of every two Americans as poor or low income.

One donated hour at a time, dedicated volunteers are working to alleviate hunger among those in need.

Whether you placed a bag of food on your doorstep or by your mailbox during a food drive, helped to stock shelves at area pantries or distributed food at area agencies, churches or mobile sites, you contributed.

Your gift to the welfare of our community is appreciated.

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