SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Ozarks Food Harvest (OFH) has doubled its reach since the pandemic while also managing COVID outbreaks at food pantries across the Ozarks.

While many feel the financial impacts brought on by COVID-19, OFH’s mobile food pantry has been essential in bringing its services to areas in the most need.

“Pre-pandemic we were distributing between about one and 1.5 million meals per month, and now, during the pandemic, were doing about two to 2.5 million meals per month,” said Jordan Browning, the public information officer at Ozarks Food Harvest.

Browning said the nonprofit is discovering new ways to reach local families.

“Our mobile food pantry program has come in handy during these times,” said Browning. “The perfect example of that was crosslines Springfield, where they had to shut down when they had an exposure of COVID in their facility, but because we have our mobile food pantry, that us allow us to go, just directly to a site, all we need is a parking lot.”

In Southwest Springfield, Elizabeth Ann Seaton Church has been providing monthly groceries for families once a month since June to help people in need.

“People that need these services and may not have a vehicle, they may have a non-reliable vehicle, so they don’t have to go very far,” said Tom Ryan, a volunteer at Ozarks Food Pantry. “It’s good to be on a bus route, to have sidewalks and things so that they come and pick up the food.”

Thanks to the help of volunteers and the National Guard, more than 150 people are showing up to the location each month.

“We have people coming up from Christian County, we have people coming from Battlefield and places like that, so it’s kind of more of a centrally located for them and they can get to it pretty easily,” said Ryan.

The greater need has sparked a statewide push to ensure Ozarks Food Harvest isn’t short-staffed.

“The National Guard is filling the void that was left by when we had to temporarily shut down our volunteer program,” said Browning. “We’ve reopened that at this point, but luckily they are sticking around with us for the holiday season. Things typically get a little busier.”

You can learn how to be a volunteer for the Ozarks Food Harvest on its website.