Southeast Mo. Food Bank distributes 16.35M pounds of food during pandemic response

Southeast Mo. Food Bank distributes 16.35M pounds of food during pandemic response

SIKESTON, Mo. (KFVS) - Southeast Missouri Food Bank distributed 16.35 million pounds of food during 2020.

That’s 13.6 million meals, and more than 3 million pounds more than was distributed in 2019.

“If anyone had told us at the start of 2020 that we were going to distribute more than 16 million pounds of food and hold nearly double the number of mobile food distributions, we probably would have said, ‘No way. We don’t have the resources for that,’” said food bank Chief Executive Officer Joseph Keys. “But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and we started seeing double the number of people needing food assistance because of lost jobs and wages, we rallied quickly and kept up that pace during pretty much the whole year.”

According to the food bank, mobile food distributions were a big part of their pandemic response. The pre-packed boxes of food were distributed in drive-thru fashion.

“With a mobile we are able to get food quickly into the more remote parts of our service area, including those communities that may not have a brick-and-mortar pantry,” Keys said.

The food bank held 432 mobile distributions in 2020, compared to 234 held in 2019.

The mobiles were converted to drive-thrus to help prevent spreading COVID-19. Pantries also began doing their distributions via drive-thrus where possible.

While the number of people needing food assistance doubled in the early days of the pandemic, the food bank said it has started to stabilize.

Keys estimated the food bank served about 40 percent more families that it did before the pandemic, having gone from serving 63,000 individuals per month to 85,000-90,000.

Also in 2020, the food bank provided monthly boxes of food to 5,350 senior citizens.

It partnered with 32 school districts to provide weekend backpacks of food to 1,167 students during the 36-week school year.

They also distributed 2.57 million pounds of produce, dairy and protein through the federal Farm to Family program, as well as giving out 611,890 pounds of fresh produce donated by local farmers and growers.

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