When Steve Gehring—an attorney with Cline Williams—moved to Omaha in 1989 he was looking to get involved in the community. Soon after, he joined Food Bank for the Heartland’s Board of Directors and never looked back. “I figured I would serve for five years and then move on, but it was really the only serious charitable board I served on.” Steve served for an astounding twenty years and currently provides legal counsel.
Steve says witnessing the inner workings of the Food Bank created a strong desire within him to serve neighbors in need. “I developed such a passion and commitment to the people. I saw the incredible work that the Food Bank did. It wasn’t a hand-out, there was nothing condescending about how they operated. People went out there, got the job done, and fed people.”
His time on the board opened his eyes to the damaging and long-term impacts of hunger. “I had no idea about starvation or food insecurity before being involved. I learned that if parents worry about how they’re going to eat and feed their children—it leads to anxiety, tension, and stress, all things that can tear families apart—creating detrimental effects on children.”
As the Food Bank evolved and diversified its reach, Steve utilized his passion and knowledge to help increase community resources for those facing hunger, focusing on SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). “While there was resistance because it was a government program, I knew enough to realize it was theoretically possible that SNAP could help eliminate hunger in the U.S. I really thought the Food Bank should participate, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to get that done.”
Steve continued his research, spending a considerable amount of time conversing with other food banks running successful SNAP Outreach programs. In 2010, Steve and key leaders at the Food Bank approached the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to make the SNAP Outreach Program a reality for Heartland individuals and families. By FY 2022, 20,794 applications were submitted through the Food Bank’s SNAP Outreach team, impacting families while generating $1.94 billion in economic activity at local retailers and communities in Nebraska and Iowa.
Steve believes much more work is needed to help educate the public on what Heartland neighbors are facing every day. “A lot of single moms struggle with food insecurity. That’s a very difficult life to have and it’s a tremendous responsibility. These women often don’t have stable or well-paying jobs, which creates food problems for the family. These are not people trying to scam the system. These are people who just need a sandwich and a glass of milk.”
To those who are quick to criticize, Steve says it’s time for our country to show more empathy.
“I would say go walk in her shoes for a mile and tell me whether you would want to trade places. At the base level, there is nothing more important than making sure people are fed.”
Steve has been a proud advocate for the Food Bank for more than thirty years, and according to him, there’s no better cause—or team—to support. “Nobody at the Food Bank is in it for the prestige. They just want to help make life better for people. And I don’t think there’s anything more important we could be about.”