March 10, 2020

Guest Column | Josh Hayes

Josh Hayes has always felt he had a special calling to help others who are poor, hungry and hurting. Now as the assistant director of operations at Faith Temple Food Giveaway in Sioux Falls, he collaborates with other non-profits, volunteers and stakeholders to feed the hungry and promote a better quality of life for individuals in South Dakota. 

Hayes, a 2018 University of South Dakota graduate, double majored in psychology and media and journalism and was very active in multiple groups, including CRU, Coyote Communications, Habitat for Humanity, Spanish Club and Sigma Alpha Pi. His determination and desire to serve didn’t end when he graduated as Hayes is currently part of Sioux Falls Thrive, Sioux Falls Hunger, the Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) and the Sioux Falls Young Professionals Network.

While Hayes is tirelessly serving South Dakota, he has one mission – to end hunger in South Dakota.

USD: Who are some of your mentors that have helped contribute to your success and learning?

Josh: I have been able to have many mentors who have poured into me their knowledge and have contributed to my success and learning. While at USD, the professors in both the Departments of Media and Journalism and Psychology pushed me to excel in whatever project I was working on; both in and out of classes. I have also been actively involved in small groups where discipleship happens -- where people are able to pour their wisdom into me, while I do the same with them. It’s a collaborative effort which really helps mentorship flourish. 

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USD: You are a key leader at one of the largest food distribution programs in this state. What can you tell us about the current hunger needs throughout South Dakota that most people may not realize? Is there a serious need?

Josh: In South Dakota, 1 in 6 children go to bed hungry, and 1 in 9 adults are food insecure. For the clients we serve, approximately 45 percent are children under 18 years of age. The need is very real and isn’t always how we think hunger should look like. Many people we serve, especially seniors, have to make the very hard decision between filling their prescriptions or buying food. At the end of the day, the root cause of hunger is poverty. 

We not only want to feed people, but we want to equip them with resources and opportunities to help them succeed in other areas of their lives.

USD: You and your team have been able to provide millions of meals across the state. Can you give us an idea of how many people you are able to help each week/month through this program?

Josh: Every month, we give away enough food to provide over 100,000 meals to people living in hunger in South Dakota. On an average week, we see the food we give away making an impact in the lives of over 1,600 people in the area. In addition to food, we have distributed basic needs items like socks, shampoo, body wash, toothbrushes and toothpaste. 

On an average week, we see the food we give away making an impact in the lives of over 1,600 people in the area.

We work closely with nursing students from USD, South Dakota State University, University of Sioux Falls and other programs that work closely in the public health system. Students are able to see firsthand the needs of the clients and have a better understanding about how people living in lower socioeconomic classes live day-to-day. This knowledge is vital when working in the health care field, especially when discharging patients who may not be able to eat the foods the physician has recommended or be able to purchase the prescriptions due to lack of funds.

USD: What part of your role and career is the most fulfilling? What is the most difficult?

Josh: I enjoy talking with guests and find that it is one of the most fulfilling parts of my job. I also teach civil rights and food safety classes in the community, where I am able to actively interact with constituents and help promote food safe environments. Each month, I review and submit hundreds of pages of forms and paperwork to the government and other entities; I love to interact with people, so all of the red tape and paperwork can easily be one of the hardest parts of my job.

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USD: Being that your role is in public service, I would imagine you work with several other notable groups and serve on different boards in your community. Can you talk a little bit about the different roles or efforts you have been involved in?

Josh: I have been honored to be involved with many task forces and boards, and I love to collaborate with other entities and businesses who want to fight hunger collectively. Currently, I am fulfilling a three-year term on the Food Security Task Force of Sioux Falls Thrive. Thrive’s mission is to ensure that all children in the Sioux Falls area have the resources they need to achieve their highest academic and career potential.

Thrive’s mission is to ensure that all children in the Sioux Falls area have the resources they need to achieve their highest academic and career potential.

We, as an action team, have been working with the Riverside neighborhood located in Sioux Falls, through the KidLink program. We want to make sure that families have the resources to feed their households. Through this task force, we as a collective also realized that when clients were looking for food resources, many organizations and business didn’t have a simple way to find what was available, especially the same day. I have taken the lead on creating SiouxFallsHunger.com, a website that is a collaborative effort to make information easily available and a central hub for food resources. We are currently encouraging businesses, non-profit entities, faith-based organizations and government sectors to display a decal with the Sioux Falls Hunger logo, showing that they support fighting hunger, even if their business model or mission isn’t focused on hunger.

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USD: If someone wanted to get involved or give back, how could they help this initiative?

Josh: Each giveaway costs us approximately $1,500 between paying handling fees on the food and rent for the building where the distribution is located. We also rely on almost 100 volunteers every Friday to help distribute the food. We encourage groups and businesses to partner with us financially and through volunteering efforts to help us end hunger in South Dakota. Volunteering and financial partnership opportunities can be found on our website, FaithTempleFood.com.