COLUMBIA — The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri announced Friday that a $1 million grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health will purchase refrigerated trucks to deliver fresh produce to its agency partners.
“This is one awesome day at the food bank,” said Mariel Liggett, president of the board of directors for the organization.
The foundation donated $1 million to food banks in four locations, to be distributed over the next two years: the food bank in Columbia, the St. Louis Area Food Bank, Southeast Missouri Food Bank in Cape Girardeau and Ozarks Food Harvest in Springfield.
This $4 million Emergency Food Access Project was developed to better provide food-insecure Missourians with more fresh and nutritious foods.
One of every five Missouri children is food insecure, according to Feeding America, the biggest domestic hunger relief group in the United States. That means they do not have access to a sufficient amount of nutritious and safe food.
In 2012, the food bank in Columbia distributed almost 27.5 million pounds of food to 131 hunger-relief organizations and 129 Buddy Pack schools throughout central and northeast Missouri.
Plans are to use the $1 million for vehicles and other equipment:
- A 2014 Freightliner semi-tractor with refrigerated trailer
- A 2014 Freightliner 24-foot refrigerated box truck
- A 2013 Ford Transit van
- Three Crown forklifts
- A 2006 48-foot refrigerated trailer with liftgate
The cost of transportation is a big item in the budget, especially with gas prices, Liggett said. "This will help us to distribute millions of pounds of food each year."
Since the food bank started 32 years ago, it has never been able to purchase this much new equipment at one time, said Executive Director Peggy Kirkpatrick.
The organization spent almost $60,000 on repairs last year because the vehicles were so old, she said. "Now that money can go toward more food."
About one-third of the grant has been set aside for refrigerated storage and expansion needs of the agency partners, to improve access to and distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Any time you can get new equipment to better do your job, it will help,” said Jack Menges, executive director of the Open Door Service Center in Sedalia, an agency partner.