Though the media tends to focus on underdeveloped countries when the subject is hunger, food scarcity is also a problem in the United States.
Consider parts of Missouri, where one of every six people goes hungry, according to the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri.
Rotary member Steve Dulle wanted to change that. For his induction as this year’s governor of District 6080, he eschewed a traditional installation featuring fine food and formal wear. Instead, he asked members throughout the district to collect nonperishable provisions and volunteer at local food banks and pantries on the day that he took office. And he launched a monthlong “food fight” that pit clubs in the northern part of his district against those in the south to see who could collect the most food.
The north won — as did the area’s hungry residents. Rotary members, Rotaractors, and their families and friends collected more than 10,000 pounds of food and raised nearly $19,000 for Missouri’s food pantries.
“I wanted to start off my year with an example of what it should primarily portray, namely a dedication to service,” says Dulle. “This was the first time we did a service project for our district — it united us.”
The Rotary Club of Jefferson City Breakfast took top honors for the amount of food brought in, collecting more than 2,500 pounds of nonperishable items outside a supermarket on Saturdays in July. The Rotary Club of Columbia-Metro contributed the most labor, volunteering 258 hours at the Food Bank of Central & Northeast Missouri. And the Columbia South, Fulton and Jefferson City Evening clubs collected the most money for the cause, more than $2,000 each.
Rotary members and guests even repackaged nearly 5,000 pounds of Rice Krispies for local food pantries. Dulle says that a volunteer stood on a ladder and shoveled the cereal from a 15-foot box into a large pan, which was eventually divided by others into serving sizes for innumerable plastic containers ready for delivery.
Local Rotaract members pitched in as well.
“Coordinated projects like these are able to take service projects to another level,” says Jolyn Sattizahn, president of the Rotaract Club of Columbia, who helped with the effort.
Of the 49 clubs in the district, 36 participated in the initiative.
Larry Price, president of the Rotary Club of Mountain View, says he’ll never forget volunteering at an Ozarks Food Harvest pantry.
“Frankly, I had no idea that so many people in Mountain View were being served at this site,” he says. “And the beneficiaries of the program were quick to express their appreciation to the volunteers as they made their way around the tables.”
Dulle’s 28 June installation as district governor, at the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri, was atypical. There was no banquet, attendees wore shorts, and the governor was sworn in during a lunch break. He wouldn’t have done it any differently.
“It was important that the project be hands-on so we could better feel the service we were doing,” he says. “Because of the project, clubs are continuing to work with their food banks.”
And that promises to make a dent in the district’s hunger problem in the years to come.