By Tim Kean, President and CEO
Thank you for making such an impact in 2020! We can only do what we do because of your support. Yes, 2020 was terrible for many reasons and still some of that remains with us today, but in all the turmoil of businesses shutting down, people being forced out of work, and strains on our country like never before, you stepped up. Your generosity propelled us to be able to stretch and try to reach the new levels of support necessary for thousands of families that were thrust into various levels of chaos and probably are still there, many for the first time. These may be neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members, and families who were not previously in need of social safety net services who now find themselves searching for answers to many questions. Questions and comments like – “How long will I remain without a job?” and “Where can my family find food assistance? We’ve never been dependent on support from anyone before and don’t know what system is available.”
We have seen sadness and confusion first hand at our Tailgate Distributions in 2020. The car window rolls down and we see the “deer in the headlights” look and the questions start coming. Some questions with elusive answers can spill over into anger and frustration on the national level with many communicating through social media, but our challenging encounters with the public at these venues have been minimal. Your gifts have helped us to serve four times as many trunk loads of food at our Tailgates – 595,756 in 2020 compared to 150,939 in 2019.
Another significant impact area you provided the resources to grow was The Big Idea initiative. Although the format had to change due to COVID restrictions to a drive-through format, our school partners wanted to continue to engage families to maintain relationships as much as they possibly could. Through partnerships with 35 schools, 961,132 pounds of food was supplied in over 17,000 monthly allotments to over 1,600 households. The number of families attending actually grew from 2019 when the in-person format was being used. We have also seen a significant growth in multi-generational households, which speaks to more financial pressure being felt by the families.
Big growth steps were taken because of you with our Senior Safety Net initiative. Assisting struggling, food-insecure senior citizens has been a part of our targeted programmatic efforts for many years. Several years ago, we facilitated a government funded senior-focused outreach to get food into the hands of struggling seniors. That program became much too onerous with the mountain of government regulations and paperwork required so we made the move to develop our own program. 2020 was a pivotal year in the expansion of this important outreach. Growing a strong partnership with LifeStream Services, we have been able to expand from 4 sites in 3 counties to 15 sites in 6 counties.
Thanks to your outstanding support we were able to acquire and distribute just over 14,800,000 pounds of food which provided over 12,300,000 meals to our struggling neighbors. This positive economic impact is equal to just under $24,000,000 in our 8-county region. We are moving forward in 2021 by maintaining this aggressive posture as the need is still as high as it was during 2020. You have reaffirmed to us, once again, that we can count on you and you will not disappoint those who struggle.