The $6,636.98 in local and matched funds will be used to leverage approximately $66,000 worth of food distribution for the school's backpack program that provides food for kids who need assistance over the weekends.
"Each dollar in funds has the capability of buying $10 worth of food," said Mark Nelson, Community Foundation of the Ozarks board member and president of the Monett Area Community Foundation.
Now in its fourth year, the Monett School District backpack program, sponsored by the First Christian Church of Monett, is currently serving 48 students. The annual cost per student for the program is over $300. Through the Food for Thought program, students are able to take home a backpack of food items to eat over the weekend when they are not in school.
The Walmart State Giving Foundation awarded $125,000 to Ozarks Food Harvest for a second challenge opportunity this year after last year's successful $100,000 grant for the original Ozarks Million Dollar Hunger Challenge.
In this year's challenge, 25 programs across the region worked in conjunction with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks affiliates, such as the Monett Area Community Foundation, to raise matching funds by the Sept. 30 deadline.
"We appreciate the cooperative spirit between our affiliate foundations and their local food pantries to jointly tackle this matching grant opportunity," said CFO President Brian Fogle.
The program began in response to a national report that indicated an estimated 155,000 Ozarkers faced chronic hunger issues.
"We are grateful for the funding from the Walmart State Giving program, which allows us to leverage hunger relief support to our local Ozarks communities," said Bart Brown, CEO at Ozarks Food Harvest.
"There is a growing population of clients who are not eligible for government assistance, such as WIC or the National School Lunch program," Brown said. "This gap truly relies on our member pantries and feeding sites to help feed their families.
"The current child food insecurity rate is sobering," Brown continued. "More than a quarter of our children, 5 percent higher than the national rate, now face hunger or do not know where their next meal is coming from."
Ozarks Food Harvest is the Feeding America food bank for southwest Missouri, serving more than 300 hunger relief organizations across 28 Ozarks counties in addition to long-term relief sites in Joplin. The food bank reaches 20,000 individuals weekly and distributes one million pounds of food monthly.