Loaves & Fishes 'Hearts for Hunger' seeks public help to get through lean months

Justin Jones, warehouse and facilities manager at Loaves & Fishes, sorts through a shipment of donates food Dec. 2, 2019. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — This Valentine’s Day, Loaves & Fishes is encouraging locals to consider a cash donation or signing up to volunteer to support neighbors in need during the annual “Hearts for Hunger” campaign.

“Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, a day that focuses around celebrating with nice meals, flowers and candy,” said a Loaves & Fishes press release. “For our food-insecure neighbors in need, however, it’s just another day of making tough choices between paying increased utilities or filling empty bellies.”

Loaves & Fishes executive director Lydia Kelley said the "Hearts for Hunger" campaign helps tide the food resource center over through the lean winter months, in between their large food drives in September and May.

"We want to keep the momentum going, and do what we can to ensure we keep feeding our neighbors in the community," Kelley said. "We want to encourage people to volunteer, donate or advocate, and just get the word out about what we're doing and who we're serving."

According to a February 2019 report, Loaves & Fishes distributed 690,000 pounds of food in 2018 to 5,518 people in need in 2,119 households.

Those distributions were made possible by the work of 386 volunteers who donated 8,122 hours of work, saving the food resource center more than $107,000 in employment costs, according to the report.

Food supplied through Loaves & Fishes came from a variety of sources, including, by weight: 45% from the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma; 33% from retail partner grocery stores that donate excess stock; 15% from food drives and private donations; 6% from wholesale purchases; and about 1% in fresh produce grown by Loaves & Fishes volunteers.

Mike Ruby, board president and volunteer at Loaves & Fishes, said that demand hasn't lessened, and community support is needed to continue meeting demand.

“Despite our best efforts as a community, food insecurity does not go away," Ruby said in a press release. "Taking the lead in this effort is Loaves & Fishes. I have a Heart for Hunger from witnessing the marvelous way they address the needs of our citizens. It is fair, educational, treats clients with dignity and highly efficient operationally."

Oscar Melendez, a volunteer and board member, said he's dedicated to helping Loaves & Fishes fulfill its mission "because my family and I have been on both sides."

"I have been impacted in such a way that we simply cannot ignore the fact that there are hungry people in our community, but also that there are amazing people who are out making a difference," Melendez said in the press release. "We did not have a place like Loaves & Fishes where I grew up, and although we had the heart, we did not have the resources to help those in need. My family gives, helps and cares today in hopes of impacting somebody else’s life, so that they too may be able to bless others.”

Even a relatively small monetary donation can go a long way toward feeding those in need, thanks to Loaves & Fishes' buying power through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. According to the press release, a $68 donation will provide food for two families in need for a month.

Donations can be made directly, online at http://weblink.donorperfect.com/LFNWOK_Hearts4Hunger.

In addition to cash, food and supply donations, Loaves & Fishes also needs help from volunteers to help unload delivery trucks, sort and stock food and help clients while they’re shopping.

Volunteers must be 16 years old or older to volunteer unaccompanied, while children 13-15 years old must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information on volunteering at Loaves & Fishes contact Melanie Mayhall at (580) 540-9830 or melanie@loavesandfishesnwok.org. Information and volunteer applications also are available online at http://www.loavesandfishesnwok.org/volunteer.html.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for James? Send an email to jneal@enidnews.com.

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