Keenan Nelson has seen a lot during his 11 years with Food Bank for the Heartland—literally. Keenan serves as one of the Food Bank’s long-haul drivers which means he travels across Nebraska and western Iowa—covering 93 counties and 78,000 square miles, nearly every week.
While many could not imagine that type of job, Keenan’s not like most. “I like the solitude, and I like being outdoors. I could never do a 9 to 5 shift in the office, that’s just not me,” says Keenan. While he enjoys his time on the road, his role in delivering nutritious food to the nearly 207,000 neighbors in need across the Food Bank’s service area, brings him the most joy.
“I feel a sense of pride when I pull into a pantry. I’ve created great relationships with the providers and with the people in need. They wave to me as I pull in. They know my name and say, ‘Hello Keenan’ and it makes me feel good knowing that I’m making such a big difference.”
Keenan’s experience with the Food Bank has been an eye-opening one. His time here has made him realize how serious the situation is. He has seen the need grow substantially—to the amount of food going out on the trucks, to the amount of people showing up to receive it, which is why he takes his job so seriously.
“I see myself as bridging the gap, not just by getting the food from point A to point B. I understand that folks in eastern Nebraska may think a certain way about the western part of the state and vice versa. I’m bridging that gap as well—connecting people to each other.”
Keenan realizes his role has allowed him to see more than the average person. “There’s a lot of hidden and forgotten people in our two-state service area. I see a lot of the lower-class people, the neighbors who are really struggling. Growing up, I never went outside of Omaha much. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to see our service area, I understand that there are so many people really in need.”
While he hopes the need across the Heartland improves, Keenan will continue showing up to work with a smile on his face, eager to serve others. “The need is what motivates me,” says Keenan. “But you really have to want to be here. You have to want to help.”
Keenan brings that determined spirit to his job every day, proving again and again, he’s here for the long-haul.