SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The 21st annual "Hungerthon," a joint effort of Ozarks Food Harvest and iHeartMedia, collected enough money over the weekend to provide meals to more than 500 Southwest Missouri children who live in food-insecure households.

The fundraiser, which ran for more than 30 hours over the weekend in Springfield, brought in $156,564 for Ozarks Food Harvest's weekend backpack program, which provides more than 1,600 food-insecure children with food to take home each weekend throughout the academic year. Schools involved in the program include Irving Elementary School in Joplin as well as several schools in Carthage, Monett, Bronaugh, Washburn and Mount Vernon.

"Year after year, generous donors and partners continue to pledge their support to help provide weekend meals for children in the Ozarks," said Bart Brown, president and CEO of the Springfield-based Ozarks Food Harvest, in a statement. "We are so thankful for the kindness and care of the surrounding community."

Throughout the campaign, backpacks were matched by individuals, businesses and foundations including Anthem, Commerce Bank, Kathy Copeland, CoxHealth, DairiConcepts, Fireworks Supermarket, Fraternal Order of Eagles No. 3934 Auxiliary, Harter House, Nancy Jester, Kum & Go Charitable Fund, Mass Mutual, Musgrave Foundation, Peck Insurance and Financial Services, Ron and Janice Penney, Ron and Lezah Stenger, SGC Foodserve and Yahweh's Place.

Event sponsors included Expedia Group; Air Services and All Services; Morrison, Webster and Carlton; and Mid-Missouri Bank.

Pledges can still be made online at ozarksfoodharvest.org/donate, where they can be designated specifically to the weekend backpack program.

Ozarks Food Harvest is the Feeding America food bank for Southwest Missouri, serving 270 organizations across 28 counties. It provides more than 18.3 million meals annually to more than 261,000 individuals.

Emily Younker is the managing editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.

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