The chief executive officer of a northwest Missouri food bank testifies the response and recovery effort from COVID-19 will be the largest relief assistance program in American history, by far.

Second Harvest Community Food Bank serves 15 northwest Missouri counties, along with four Kansas counties (2020 photo courtesy of Second Harvest’s Facebook page)

Second Harvest Community Food Bank CEO Chad Higdon testified Tuesday before a congressional subcommittee on emergency management. The food bank is headquartered in St. Joseph.

“We have seen a tremendous increase in need as a result of COVID-19,” Higdon testifies. “This past fiscal year, Second Harvest distributed 9.9 million pounds of food, up 31 percent from our record distribution the year prior.”

Higdon says that translates to about 8.25 million meals to needy families. He also says the food bank distributed about one million pounds of food in July.

“We understand that low-income families in general are vulnerable. One vehicle emergency or unexpected home repair can set a family back financially for months, and we know that low-income seniors often must choose between needed prescriptions and a nutritious meal,” Higdon says.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are praising the St. Joseph food bank for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second Harvest serves 15 northwest Missouri counties: Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Caldwell, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Livingston, Mercer, Nodaway and Worth. Towns include St. Joseph, Chillicothe, Bethany and Trenton.

It also serves four Kansas counties.

Second Harvest employs a staff of 24 full-time employees, with an annual operating budget of $3.7 million. Mr. Higdon testifies that prior to the pandemic, they were serving about 45,000 individuals. He says that number is now about 64,000, about 18 percent of the population in those counties.

He testifies about 26 percent of the children in that area are food insecure.

Higdon praises the members of the congressional subcommittee for their support of food banks. He testified at the request of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, who says Higdon’s testimony highlights how disasters impact vulnerable populations like the elderly.

Higdon testified from Congressman Graves’ St. Joseph office, because witnesses were encouraged to participate remotely due to the pandemic. He also submitted written testimony.

Second Harvest Community Food Bank’s website says its mission “is to provide nourishment and hope to the hungry in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas, while engaging and empowering the region in the fight to end hunger.”

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