FULTON - SERVE, Inc., an agency of the United Way of Callaway County, plans to participate in the Feinstein Challenge for the fourth year in a row. However, there is an additional challenge to the competition this year.
The Feinstein Challenge gives away $1 million each year to anti-hunger agencies across the country. The Feinstein Foundation will proportionally match food or cash donations given to the Callaway County SERVE food pantry between March 1 and April 30. During the 2012 Feinstein Challenge, SERVE raised a total of $10,118.06 and 11,889.3 pounds of food.
Callaway Action Network (CAN) director Julie Roark wanted to up the ante for this year's challenge. Instead of asking people to donate more to the pantry during March and April, she created a challenge of her own.
SERVE, Inc. wants 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 is to collect 25 tons of food in this year's challenge.
Roark said there is a competitive edge to the Full-Ton Challenge. "Bragging rights will be available for those who challenge other similar groups...bank to bank, store to store, civic group to civic group and even school to school."
The Fulton Boy Scouts are already on board. Their goal is to collect 5 tons. "If they are able to meet their goal, the scout leader (Tim Loftus) and myself will take a pie to the face," said Roark laughing.
Roark said other groups are also excited to participate. "This is something new and it's very mold-able to fit whatever way you want to do it. You have the possibility to either raise funds or food." According to Feinstein rules, every dollar raised equals one pound of food.
Roark suggested some benefits and learning opportunities for participants in the Full-Ton Challenge. "For the schools, they could do a service learning project in conjunction with this, teaching about math skills, weighing, measuring, estimating. And then even for the older kids, being able to put into perspective what poverty and hunger means in our community and taking those things and putting them in a way of making a difference and challenging people to think about those issues in our community."
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."
With so many families relying on SERVE's pantry, having enough food on the shelves is a constant worry. "There have been times when it's been very, very scary," said Roark, referring to times when SERVE had trouble filling the pantry's shelves. "The hope here is that we're going to be able to fill the pantry to its capacity and maybe even having to store some so we can make it through those hard times."
The SERVE food pantry is busy preparing for the challenge. "I'm kind of trying to get this area prepped to handle all the food coming in," said pantry manager Wes Wade, "It's going to be crazy."
For information on how to participate in the Full-Ton Challenge, contact SERVE, Inc. at 573-642-6388.