Business and the Economy
2:39 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Ozarks Food Harvest has Record Year, But High Demand Remains for Food Pantries

Well of Life, located at 418 S. Kimbrough, stocks the pantry shelves with donations from churches, as well as partnering with Ozarks Food Harvest.
Well of Life, located at 418 S. Kimbrough, stocks the pantry shelves with donations from churches, as well as partnering with Ozarks Food Harvest.
Credit Anna Thomas / KSMU

Ozarks Food Harvest distributed 12.5 million meals in its most recent fiscal year, a record in its 31 years in Springfield. The donations help local food pantries across region. KSMU’s Anna Thomas has the story of how one organization and its customers are benefiting.

“Well actually, this is the first time I’ve seen it this busy in here in a long time,” says one pantry patron, inside the Well of Life emergency food pantry at 418 South Kimbrough.

The pantry serves Springfield residents mainly in the 65806 zip code, where co-directors Gail Smart and Marilyn Vinson McAfee say their services are most needed.

“It has a forty-one percent poverty rate in Springfield. It has the highest level of poverty in Springfield,” Smart said.

“What’s the percent of kids that receive free lunches at school?” Vinson McAfee asked.

“Fifity-five,” Smart said.

“Yeah, it’s real high,” Vinson McAfee said.

Well of Life is able to serve those area residents, as well as Missouri State students, six times a year, and Springfield residents outside the zip code, once a year.

“Can you use pork and beans?" Asks Pat McMurtrey, Well of Life secretary.

“Yes, I like pork and beans,” responds a pantry customer. We were not allowed to use his name.

“Mixed fruit?” McMurtrey continues. “Peanut butter? Jelly?

“Yes, my favorite jelly, if you don’t have it that’s fine, is grape,” the man says.

McMurtrey starts clients off by determining what they need and like out of the pantry’s inventory.

“We have lots of meat. We have a lot of chicken, we have some beef. We have some pork loins, country style ribs,” McMurtrey says.

That’s fine, that’s fine right there. Yes, ma’am,” responds another customer.

Well of Life obtains the majority of its meats and fresh produce from Ozarks Food Harvest, which has distributed a record of nearly 15 million pounds of food this past year.

President and CEO Bart Brown credits the increase to OFH’s new facility, which opened five years ago, and the organization’s relationship with major food donors.

“On one hand, it’s great that we’re able to have this capacity. On the other hand, it’s too bad that it’s needed and there’s more needed,” Brown said.

Well of Life has gained over 500 clients in the last six months.  Find more information at the food pantry or Ozarks Food Harvest websites.