We were pleased to hear from Michaella Kumke from the Food Bank of Lincoln and Lancaster County on April 23, 2021 at Lincoln South Rotary Club. Her topic She talked about "Covid-19 Impact on Food Insecurity in Southeast Nebraska and Raising the Response to Hunger" and updated us on the Food Bank of Lincoln Capital Campaign.
Prior to the presentation, Chan and DeEtta presented the big check representing our club's support of $12,450 to The Food Bank of Lincoln Capital Campaign.
Michaela started by thanking Lincoln South Rotary Club for our continued support. Our check gets them much closer to their $10 million goal. She said that one of her first community events after she joined The Food Bank was at Lincoln South Rotary Club - she came along with the speaker Scott Young.
She reported that an estimated 229,120 Nebraskans are food insecure - that number would fill Memorial Stadium 2.5 times. During the pandemic, there has been an increase by about 11%. 
The Food Bank of Lincoln serves 16 counties in Southeast Nebraska. There are currently about 57,510 people dealing with food insecurity. That includes 16,980 kids. Michaela showed a chart that indicates that number - 57,510 - would compose Nebraska's third largest city. Yesterday along, at one of the pop-up locations - The Innovation Campus - they served 357 families.
“There are a lot of families like mine that are stuck in the middle where things get really tight really quickly…I work two jobs and even with cutting my expenses, it is not enough to make ends meet, especially when raising kids. Without this valuable resource, I am not sure what my family would do.”
Food distribution changed to drive-thru format in 2020 - when we were determined to be in a pandemic. Clients remain in their cars and Food Bank volunteers and staff put pre-packed boxes in the trunk.
Comparing year over year, there was an increase of 45% pounds of food distributed due to the pandemic. During the first year of the Pandemic, Michaela reported 13,696,750 pounds distributed which is 4,238,621 more than the same period the year before. Besides pounds of food, they track meals. March 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021 they provided 13,589,667 meals, 2,811,210 more (26%) than the previous year.
Looking over a longer term, they have seen growth of 1 million meals in 1997 to 11.5 million meals in the 16-county service area.
“[Because of the Food Bank] The kids aren’t hungry. They go get an apple or orange or a handful of blueberries instead of eating bread and butter with sugar on it. This is healthier eating for us. It has made a huge difference. The families I talk to that are going wouldn’t have bought the food on their own; they can’t afford it. It’s the extra nutrients they normally bypass for something cheaper.”
Though the service format has changed, they aren't able to distribute through the schools as easily as before, they are dedicated to feeding children. And, Michaela commented that is only because of the dedication of the schools. Nobody wanted the services to stop. Instead of going to the schools, they took more food into the neighborhoods. But they are back to providing programs such as the Back Pack program, summer meals, pantries in schools, etc. They are very committed to The Child Hunger Programs which is extremely important for a healthier population. She indicated that the Lincoln Fresh trucks will be parked at all Head Start locations making fresh fruits available to children around the city.
Another quote - from a person who was in a pretty good financial position until the pandemic. He said that he was nervous with his first visit to collect food - but was treated with dignity and the experience changed him forever. “You have genuinely changed someone like me. I got to see the other side of the coin. There is more of a need to help people than we realize. Sometimes we get in our routine, focused on ourselves and our families, that we forget about our neighbors across the street counting pennies to make ends meet.”-Troy

The goals of the capital campaign

  • Connect More People to Meals - improve and expand distribution
  • Increase Access to Healthy Food - more fresh foods by increasing cooler/freezer space
  • Shorten Food Lines - not make things move faster, but reduce the number of people in those lines through education

She said the new building will provide a safer environment for staff, volunteers and those they serve. They plan to triple their cooler/freezer space and replace their aging units. The new location will make it easier for them to load delivery and food trucks and get into the community since it is closer to the interstate and major cross streets in Lincoln. Currently only about 1% of the food is distributed from The Food Bank location - the rest is taken out to schools, agencies and into neighborhoods.

Michaela closed by stating that the Capital Campaign is not about the building and equipment - it is about the work and the services that they provide.


Michaella Kumke is the Community Engagement Director of the Food Bank of Lincoln. As a student of UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications (CoJMC), she worked as an intern at NET. That role turned into a full-time job following graduation. It fueled her passion for nonprofit work and an enduring appreciation for public broadcasting.

Ms. Kumke has nearly 20 years of nonprofit experience that includes educational broadcasting, health care, early childhood development and human services. She is a proud member of the Food Bank’s leadership team and co-leads the organization’s Raising Our Response to hunger capital campaign, a $10 million project focused on finding hunger solutions.  

When she’s not collaborating to end hunger, Ms. Kumke is an active community volunteer. Most recently, she concluded her term as Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln’s Board Chair and currently serves on the Lincoln Journal Star's Inspire Lincoln Advisory Committee, LPS Community Communications Advisory Committee and volunteers as a UNL CoJMC student mentor.

Originally from Hastings, Nebraska, Ms. Kumke grew up in a modest home with her loving parents and 11—yes, ELEVEN!—siblings. In her free time, Ms. Kumke enjoys spending time on her bike or in her running shoes enjoying Lincoln’s incredible recreational trails system. Otherwise, you’ll find her hunkered down at home with her spouse Ari, their dog Frankie, an adorable Heinz 57 mix of a mutt, and an overdue library book. (With gratitude and apologies to Lincoln City Libraries.)