Since its establishment in 1979, Harvesters’ motto has remained the same. “To feed hungry people today and work to end hunger tomorrow.”
Originally founded in Kansas City, Mo., Harvesters has grown to become a clearing house for more than 620 agencies throughout Kansas and Missouri. According to the Harvesters website, these 620 agencies are located in 26 counties in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. In 2013, Harvesters collected more than 44 million pounds of food with total donations of food and other items covering 16,441 miles. Currently, Harvesters serves more than 66,000 families in Kansas City each week. Since establishment, Harvesters has had a lasting impact in the community. Sharon Christie, a Kansas City resident says that Harvesters has helped her in many ways.
“Harvesters has done so much for my family,” Christie said. “Thanks to them, we were able to go to bed with food in our stomachs.”
Harvesters transports donated food and household products from local and national donors that are affiliated with Feeding America to their warehouse. Being a part of Feeding America provides Harvesters access to a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks in all 50 states. In addition, Harvesters develops partnerships with growers, processors, manufacturers, retailers and restaurants to encourage them to donate, not dump, their food. Less than three percent of Harvesters income is spent on fundraising and administration, a number that is far below the normal food pantry standard of 18 percent, according to the The Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri.
Harvesters is unique compared to other food banks because in addition to providing food for those who need it, they also help define hunger to those who do not clearly understand it. According to Scott Gordon, the communications coordinator for the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, there is a big difference between occasionally feeling hungry and actual hunger.
“Actual hunger is not knowing where your next meal is going to come from or how you are going to pay for one,” Gordon stated. “Food banks help provide options to those that are hungry.”
Current Harvesters Chief Resource Officer, Joanna Sebelien, emphasized the role food banks play within the lives of those who are financially struggling.
“When you are a single mother of two kids with three jobs and you get the electric bill, you have to choose what to pay for,” Sebelin said. “You either have to pay the electric bill or pay for groceries, and that’s what we are here for.”
Harvesters offers various options to Missourians in the fight against hunger. These options are divided into four initiatives: childhood hunger, feeding families, healthy eating and senior feeding. All of these initiatives are focused on Harvesters’ mission, “to collect food, distribute food and educate the community about hunger and how to prevent it.”
In addition to assisting those who can’t provide a full meal for their children, Harvesters has an educational program called Teen Eats. The program lasts six weeks and teaches teens in the Kansas City area how to make healthier and delicious meals. After participating in the program, the teens are given a free bag of groceries to take home.
For more information on Harvesters, visit their website at harvesters.org.