Photo: Shawn Oswald (right) at the Food Bank’s 2023 Celebrity Chef event.
In 2014—thanks to Celebrity Chef and television personality, Michael Symon—KETV formed a successful partnership with the Food Bank. At the time Symon was co-host of ABC’s “The Chew.” Once it was announced that Symon would be the Food Bank’s Celebrity Chef, KETV saw an organic opportunity to partner with an important cause—and support a chef on their station.
Over the last nine years, Shawn Oswald, KETV president, says his team has become educated on the realities of hunger and how it affects our communities. “We’ve learned food insecurity isn’t just in one area of town, it’s everywhere. Most importantly, we’ve learned that the need is all the time. It’s every week, every day, every meal.”
During the pandemic, KETV witnessed the challenges nonprofits like the Food Bank were facing. “My predecessor, Ariel Roblin, saw nonprofits struggling to host fundraising events due to social distancing. They thought, how can we get all these eyeballs who watch our newscasts and trust us for information to see the need and respond? And what can we do as a television station for our community in this environment that was new and different to all of us.”
Because of that need, Giving Wednesday—a monthly day of support for local nonprofits—came to fruition. Shawn says the success of the program has been awe-inspiring. “I am blown away every Giving Wednesday. Some numbers are bigger than others. Sometimes you wonder, are people really going to give to this, but they do—every time. It’s because our viewers are engaged, and they care.” KETV recently had its most successful Giving Wednesday to date, raising more than $165,000 for the Food Bank. “We did a couple of high-fives that day because that was a number we hadn’t seen before.”
Storytelling—either through Giving Wednesday or other campaigns—has been eye-opening for KETV. “We know food insecurity is something that you don’t really see if it’s not in front of your face. Over the years the need has grown exponentially. Understanding why—and how we can help and ask our viewers to help—was important for us to really take that next step and make a difference.”
When the station isn’t sharing stories, they’re making that difference in other ways. The team recently spent the morning volunteering, packing meals for the Food Bank’s BackPack Program. “We walked away so fulfilled. It’s one thing to tell a story but for us, we tangibly touched the food and packed it. There was just this feeling that okay…today we made a difference. That was a different side of the Food Bank we hadn’t seen, and it brought the whole picture into focus for us.”
Shawn says his ultimate goal is to put the Food Bank out of business, but he’s realistic that the issues of food insecurity can’t be solved overnight. “We can help fix problems like if someone doesn’t have a car to get to and from work. We can partner with someone; give them a car and it fixes the problem. But food insecurity can’t be fixed with one Giving Wednesday or one Celebrity Chef event. It’s something we must constantly work on and remind people that the need is great.”
For now, they will continue sharing those stories to help create impactful change across the Heartland. “I’m so grateful for this partnership because it has allowed us to learn, educate, and more than anything, make that tangible difference that sometimes we don’t get to feel every day with other stories. We feel that tangible difference with the Food Bank.”