Kids Cruisin' Kitchen (copy)

Food Bank for the Heartland’s food trucks provide good for families at Lions Park in Blair, Nebraska, in June. 

Dozens of partner organizations have gathered in Omaha and North Platte this month to share ideas for an eminently worthy cause: reducing food insecurity in Nebraska and western Iowa. The fight against hunger in our area is a timely topic as the holiday season approaches and as Midlands residents turn their thoughts toward their blessings as well as the needs of others less fortunate.

Some 207,000 Nebraskans and western Iowans face hunger challenges, according to the Food Bank for the Heartland, whose partner organizations came together at the Omaha and North Platte conferences to share best practices and discuss ideas for further progress.

The shelters, pantries, foundations, government agencies, schools and other organizations that join together on this issue deserve the public’s thanks. So do the many companies providing food donations.

One in six children, urban and rural, in the Food Bank’s service area in Nebraska and western Iowa face food insecurity, the nonprofit says.

So much is accomplished because Midlanders selflessly step forward to volunteer. Over the past fiscal year, people donated more than 44,000 volunteer hours to the Food Bank for the Heartland — a laudable demonstration of civic mindedness. The collaborative efforts by the partner organizations last year provided some 22.7 million meals.

Among other tasks, volunteers repackage free produce and bulk food items and put together food-focused backpacks for school children. The backpack program provided more than 1 million meals to children in 247 schools over the past fiscal year.

The Food Bank and its partner organizations have shown particular dedication in contributing to relief efforts for Nebraskans and Iowans hit hard by this year’s catastrophic floods and blizzard. The disasters struck 77 of the 93 counties served by the Food Bank — “the largest-scale disaster that the Food Bank has responded to in our organization’s 38-year history,” the organization says.

The group’s partner organizations distributed more than 570,000 disaster relief meals so far this year, with more food help likely as the recovery continues. The aid also included delivering bottled water to Boyd County after residents there lost their water supply in the wake of flooding.

The Nebraskans and Iowans working to alleviate hunger and provide emergency relief in the Midlands are doing tremendously important work. Their volunteer spirit sets an admirable example of community-mindedness and generosity.

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