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Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland is celebrating 30 years of making sure no one has to go to bed hungry.
The food bank formerly known as America’s Second Harvest is hosting a birthday ceremony and reception at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the volunteer center at 300 Peterson Drive.
The celebration, which is open to the public, includes tours of the facility. Visitors will be entered for a chance to win prizes between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The celebration also includes meeting Executive Director Don Fulford and members of the board of directors, games with chances to win prizes and a 30-minute-and-30-second-long ceremony recognizing the food bank’s history in the community.
The celebration should increase awareness about Feeding America, said Tami Delany, development director.
“It’s not to drum up donations as much as it is to talk about who we are, what we’re doing, what we’ve been doing,” she said.
Being more visible in the community is important. Some donors say they only recently learned the service existed, Delany said.
The organization distributes food to people in need in a variety of ways, including shipping nonperishables, meat and produce to food pantries in 42 counties in the region.
The organization partnered with six agencies and distributed 60,000 pounds of food by the end of 1982, its first year of operation. Feeding America partnered with 225 agencies and distributed about 12 million pounds of food last year.
Buying in bulk and partnering with companies to bring in donated consumable food that doesn’t meet commercial sales standards allows Feeding America to maximize the return on government money and donations.
One of Feeding America’s most popular services is its BackPack Program, which helps children who don’t have access to school meals on weekends.
Fulford said the food bank has one of the largest backpack programs in the country with 24,000 backpacks filled every month.
“That’s really exciting because that means we’re helping families,” he said. “We’re meeting a need, and that’s one less thing they have to worry about.
Another is the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which distributes food to many area residents who deal with food insecurity. Some of those who benefit are seniors who say without the help they would have to choose between buying food or medicine.
Those helped by Feeding America and its partners are grateful, Delany said.
The staff also is grateful for volunteers. Fulfilling the mission wouldn’t be possible without volunteers, she said,
“We are packed every day,” she said.
Lisa Stevenson of Elizabethtown volunteered last week at Feeding America for the first time.
She toured the volunteer center and helped pack plastic bags for the BackPack Program.
“I think it’s a great program,” she said. “I’m very impressed with the facility.”
Stevenson, an instructional assistant, lunchroom monitor and academic team coach at Howevalley Elementary School, knows about the need children without much food in their home face.
Many take it for granted that they can get fast food or go out to eat. They should remember there are children who don’t know where they’ll get their next meal, she said.
“We all have so much, whether you think you do, or you don’t,” she said. “We all have excess.”
Stevenson is considering taking the children from her academic team to volunteer at Feeding America so they can understand the need in the community and the importance of helping.
Howevalley preschool teacher Tara Martin organized the volunteer opportunity with her coworkers because of children who need the service.
Many of the school’s students live in poverty, so the issue is especially important to students and staff there, she said.
“At least I’m doing something,” she said. “We took a few hours of our day to do it, so I feel good.”
Martin previously brought a Girl Scout troop to volunteer, and some of her coworkers talked as they worked about coming back to help more often.
Fulford said the number of volunteers in the past few years has increased from about 350 to approximately 600.
“We wouldn’t be here without our community, and our community has been very kind and very generous to make sure that we serve the families,” he said.
The celebration is important for recognizing the organization’s 30-year history in the community and honoring those who made success possible. It also is an opportunity to look forward to what the coming years will mean for Feeding America, Fulford said.
There are grants to be announced soon and a general increase in efficiency expected to make sure more families receive a greater variety of food, Fulford said.
One of the most significant improvements is a system that makes Feeding America better prepared when it receives an unexpected bulk donation of produce, he said.
It is important to offer families healthy, fresh food, but it can be challenging to get produce into residents’ hands before it spoils. That can be handled by having a plan in place that allows quick turnaround on such donations, Fulford said.
“Our future is really bright,” he said.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or email@example.com.