Food bank announces results of Buddy Pack Match Challenge

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COLUMBIA - The Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri announcement a financial windfall Thursday that will help feed hundreds of children who might not have enough food at home. 

Missouri Employers Mutual, a workers' compensation provider, and the food bank announced MEM Buddy Pack Match Challenge results during  a news conference. 

Together they helped raise more than $66,000. The money will be used to provide Buddy Packs to 368 children for a whole school year.

The challenge ran from Aug. 7-11. MEM had promised to match gifts up to $25,000 to fight childhood hunger. 

The Buddy Pack program is designed to get  nutritious food to children who rely on free or reduced-price lunches during the school year.

“Great day for us here at the food bank," said Lindsay Lopez, the food bank's executive director. "We are absolutely thrilled that Missouri Employers Mutual offered to hold a Buddy Pack match challenge."

The challenge started after dozens of MEM employees volunteered for the food bank's Summer Feeding Program in July. Laura Gerding, a corporate communications strategist for MEM, was one of the volunteers handing out lunches to children. She said they wanted to help the food bank generate awareness for the Buddy Pack Program. 

“I was just so surprised to hear that there’s such a need in Boone County and in mid-Missouri because you don't necessarily see the need every day in your every day life, but there are a lot of kids who need food and it helps them learn better, so I think that’s a great thing,” Gerding said. 

Jennifer Peck, MEM's vice president of marketing and communication, said MEM has donated to the food bank before, but this is the first time it has done a matching gifts challenge. Peck said feeding hungry children relates to what the company does.

“It all is this big system that works together," Peck said. "When kids get food and can eat and nourish their bodies, they can go to school and learn, which helps them prepare to get a job, which then fuels all of the businesses in Missouri that then we serve as our policy holders one day." 

The food bank said more than half of children in its 32 county area qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

The program distributes food to around 7,500 children each week during the school year at more than 160 schools, according to the food bank's website. It costs $180 to provide a Buddy Pack to a child every weekend for an entire school year.  

According to Eric Maly, the food bank’s director of programs, the food bank distributed over 208,000 buddy packs in the 2017-2018 school year.