United Harvest Programs continues on with help from the community

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The United Harvest Program started in 2016 as a joint project between the First United Methodist Church and the First Presbyterian Church in Hastings.

Volunteers distribute food to those in need as part of the United Harvest Program.

On the third Saturday of every month, they help feed families in the community that are in need at the Peace Center in Hastings.

"We started out in the high 200's when we first started," said United Harvest Program Treasurer Stan Knudson.

They now average around 550 families per Saturday, but it's not the same type of distribution they're used to.

"We knew there would be some major changes that would have to happen to make our distribution work, and we knew that we wanted to do what ever it took to keep the distribution going," said United Harvest Program President Kili Wenburg.

They used to be able to provide families with choices on what foods they would receive, but the pandemic has made that impossible.

"And that was part of allowing people dignity," said Knudson. "Here we just give them what is given to us by Food Bank of the Heartland out of Omaha to make it a safe distribution during the COVID-19."

While they hope they can get back to that soon, they're still glad that they can help. They also now have to do their distribution using a drive thru process that has several moving parts.

"The volunteers walk up, open the trunk, and put their food in the trunk for them," said Wenburg. Then the volunteers proceed to a station where their hands are sanitized, the carts are sanitized and they go back and get another load for the next vehicle."

To continue the program they needed a lot of help from the community.
To control traffic, pack boxes and to distribute the food.

The community hasn't let them down

"Our volunteers are amazing. We have a lot of repeat volunteers from month to month, but we have new people that come every month too," said Wenburg. "It's really becoming a community owned project, and we're really grateful for everybody in the community that makes this happen."

They have been getting between 60 and 100 volunteers per event. Knudson also said they get around 60 to 80 new families a month, although they continue to average around 550 families each month. Which tells him that the community isn't abusing the program, but only getting it when they are in need and allowing those in need to get the help.

Proving once again here in Central Nebraska that In times of need you can always count on your community.