With the Gift of Rap 2012 concert just weeks away and people wanting to know how they can help give back this year, we took to the Strange Music Podcast recently to talk to Sarah Biles from Harvesters: Community Food Network, the only food bank in the Kansas City area. Providing assistance to an average of 66,000 people a week, Harvesters acts as a beacon in the KC area for all those wishing to help end hunger right here at home.
Check out our interview with Sarah below and find out how you can help!
For our listeners out there that aren’t familiar with the organization, I wanted to ask, what exactly does Harvesters do?
Well, Harvesters is the regional Feeding America Food Bank for 26 counties here in Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas, and what we do is acquire and store and distribute food and household products through a network of more than 620 non-profit agencies. So these agencies include food pantries, kitchens, shelters, and others, and those agencies of course are then the ones who distribute the food directly to those who are in need.
Awesome, and I actually read on your website that you guys are the only food bank in the area, is that still true?
Yes, that is correct. We are the only one in this 26 county area, and we’re one of 200 Feeding America Food Banks across the country.
Ok now that kinda leads into my next question. What kind of impact have you seen in the Kansas City area since you started your work?
Well, Harvesters has been around for 33 years, we were started in 1979 by a group of concerned citizens, faith based organizations, social service agencies, and food industry members who were concerned that while much food was going to waste, many in the community did not have enough to eat. When we started, you know, there’s always a hope that you eventually put yourself out of business, and unfortunately we’re not at that state, and in the last few years with the economic situation, we’ve had greater need for assistance than we’ve ever had in the past.
What does it mean to your organization to have someone of Tech N9ne’s stature reach out and give back in this capacity?
It means a great deal to us! Of course all community support is important to us but when someone like Tech N9ne with that celebrity stature is able to get the attention of a lot of people at one time, that obviously creates a big impact for us. This concert coming up in December is going to be a great event and we’re pleased that we were chosen as one of the beneficiaries of this event.
Now for people who don’t have the kind of pull Tech N9ne does, the average person, how can they get involved and help the cause?
Every single person can make a difference in the fight against hunger,and it’s very easy actually. We have three things we tell people they can do: They can give their time, which would require them to come out to our facility and sort and re-package food. They can donate food by bringing canned goods into Harvester’s, or they can do that at the grocery store, we have barrels in almost all area grocery stores where you can pick up an extra item while you’re shopping and just throw it in the barrel on your way out, so that’s an easy thing to do. They can also hold their own food drive and bring the food to us. The third way is to donate money, and there’s a variety of ways they can do that. We currently have a campaign running called Checkout Hunger which is a simple way to give at the grocery store, we have coupons lined up at the checkout stand and you can add a $5 coupon to your grocery bill, and that would provide 25 meals to someone in need. So people can give through that mechanism or they can give money online or however they’d like. We are able to provide 5 meals for every dollar given.
Now is that running in all major grocery stores right now?
Yes, that’s running through all major grocery stores throughout the metropolitan area.
Wonderful. I aso wanted to ask, what’s the largest single donation your organization has ever received?
Wow! I don’t think I know the biggest donation we’ve received! I know we have a lot of generous donors, both in the corporate/foundation world and individuals as well. People have been very generous to us.
Fair enough! Are there any last messages or information you’d like to give our listeners as far as how to help out and what to be aware of?
Sure! I think the important thing to remember about hunger is that while a lot of us think about it this time of year during the holidays, hunger is a year-round situation and it impacts more people than you might think. We serve through our network of agencies about 66,000 people a week, which equates to 1 in 8 people in our community that are receiving assistance. And that could be anybody, hunger is kind of a thing that of course people aren’t proud to announce to other people and let them know that they’re in need, so it’s kind of a hidden situation. So it could be your neighbor, it could be someone at your church, it could be anyone you know that could be struggling and they’re not making it an obvious thing to you. So what we work to do is raise awareness about the issue of hunger, the fact that 1 in 5 children in our area might be going to bed hungry tonight and not have had enough to eat, so even if someone can only give 1 hour of their time or $1 of their earnings, it can make a big difference.
Great. I think this is something that’s really basic, something that we need to take care of as a society, and I think you guys are doing great work so I wanted to thank you all for that.
Well thank you, and thanks to Tech N9ne and to all those involved in the concert. People coming to the concert bringing donations are able to get a merch coupon for that, and the food will definitely be needed throughout the year here at Harvester’s.