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Year after Burrow's Heisman speech spurred donations, food banks still need support

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BATON ROUGE - Monday marked one year since Joe Burrow joined Billy Cannon as one of the only LSU Tigers to win the Heisman Trophy. Twelve months later, Burrow's acceptance speech isn't remembered for himself but rather his selflessness.

"I'm up here for all of those kids in Athens and in Athens County that, you know, go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school," Burrow said at the time. highlighting hunger and poverty in southeast Ohio.

Just 31 seconds of Burrow's speech dedicated to that cause led to dozens of fundraisers for the Athens County Food Pantry, totaling roughly $650,000.

"Sitting there and listening to that speech... I still hear those words, and I still get chills and tears in my eyes when I think of what he said," said Karin Bright, the food pantry's president.

A year later, Burrow's words, and the dollars raised because of them are still reverberating through southeast Ohio. They've also allowed the Athens County Food Pantry to continue keeping its shelves stocked and families affected by the pandemic fed, while also looking at expansion.

"Things would have been much tighter," Bright said. "We would have had to really have made some tough decisions potentially."

Burrow's night in New York City didn't just benefit his hometown, however. His adopted home in Louisiana also saw impacts.

"The Baton Rouge community [said] 'well wait a second, what about us? Let's take care of our own while we're at it,'" said Mike Manning, President and CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Bank. "He's still a part of our family."

The awareness raised by Burrow's words also helped bring in $70,000 in donations for the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Manning says that covers roughly a week of meals.

Now, with COVID-19 stretching food banks thin a year later, Manning says they've already distributed about 3 million more pounds of food so far this year than in all of 2019. With Christmas less than two weeks away, that amount will only go up.

"A lot of food we've been receiving is going to go away," Manning said. "The demand is not. We've got to figure out how to work within that new paradigm."

The two food banks are separated by 1,000 miles, but both are similarly seeing new faces relying on their services. Bright and Manning say the awareness that was raised by Burrow one year ago continues to be crucial in their efforts.

"I think we need to be prepared for a long haul," Bright said. "Because it's going to take a long time for people to get fully back where they were."

To donate to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, click here.

To donate to the Athens County Food Pantry, click here.

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