FULTON - SERVE, Inc., an agency of the United Way of Callaway County, was busy counting tons of food Wednesday after wrapping up a two-month food drive. In March, SERVE asked the Fulton community to participate in the Full-Ton Challenge Food Drive as part of the national Feinstein Challenge.
The Feinstein Challenge gives $1 million each year to anti-hunger agencies across the country. The Feinstein Foundation will proportionally match the food or cash donations given to the Callaway County SERVE food pantry between March 1 and April 30. Though SERVE has participated in the Feinstein Challenge before, this was the first year it asked the entire community to participate in a local challenge food drive. Callaway Action Network (CAN) director Julie Roark wanted to up the ante for this year's challenge, so she created a challenge of her own.
SERVE challenged all Callaway County schools, businesses, churches, and organizations to participate in the Full-Ton Challenge Food Drive. "Basically, I was trying to figure out ways to get more people to participate," Roark said. "And this was just something I thought was a great idea. It is kind of playing on the name Fulton, but the fact is that we go through tons of food in a day, in a month, and almost 750,000 pounds (375 tons) in a year." SERVE's goal was to collect 25 tons of food in this year's challenge.
During the 2012 Feinstein Challenge, SERVE raised a total of $10,118.06 and 11,889.3 pounds of food. SERVE said it is still counting this year's donations, but expects a big increase from last year. "Getting people involved as a challenge to compete against each other, all in friendly competition, has benefited the pantry a great deal," said SERVE executive director Steve Mallinckrodt. "We'll see both the dollars and the amount of food raised increase."
Within the last year, the average number of families served by the food pantry increased 15 percent. "Every time we think we've kind of gotten to the peak of services, we see more people coming in," said Roark.
"We have gotten over a thousand families on a monthly basis," Roark continued, "When I started we were serving just a couple 300 to 400 families a month. So just in the time span I've been here, what is that, 14 years almost, (we're serving) over double. And that's kind of hard to think about, the reality, and how that affects so many people."
SERVE said it should know the final results of the challenge by the end of the week.