For the Chiefs November 26 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and the Chiefs selected Jessica Kejr, director of program services for Harvesters, to be honored as the Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion. Prior to kickoff, Kejr received on-field recognition and conducted the ceremonial first pass to Trent Bryant before touring the Chiefs broadcast booth and enjoying the game.
On staff with Harvesters since 2010, Kejr works daily to help fulfill the Harvesters mission of feeding the hungry today and working to end hunger tomorrow. Based in Kansas City, Harvesters serves as a regional food bank for a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. It also provides food and related household products to more than 620 not-for-profit agencies and offers educational programs to increase community awareness of hunger and teach others about good nutrition.
"I am endlessly impressed and inspired by the good work that is happening through our network of agency partners," said Kejr, who works directly with the partner organizations in programming and day-to-day operations. "Each one is doing something, big or small, to respond to the needs in their community. They are operating robust food pantries or produce distributions, serving healthy meals to kids and families, connecting people to additional resources, advocating for strong federal programs and so much more. And we are working to strengthen and equip these agency partners so we can serve people in a way that helps move toward client stability and healthy communities. It's exciting work!"
Among the programs under Kejr's direction are Harvesters' life-saving initiatives such as Kids' Café, Food Rescue, Holiday Meals, Mobile Food Pantries, USDA, traditional food pantries, onsite feeding programs and the school-focused BackSnack program, which provides a weekly backpack filled with nutritious, child-friendly food for schoolchildren to take home over the weekend.
"In this region, one in seven people are food insecure—that's 364,000 people—which means they may not know where their next meal is coming from or run out of resources to sustain a consistent healthy diet," said Kejr. "But this doesn't have to be our reality. Hunger can be solved, and everyone can do their part by volunteering, operating a food pantry or distribution, donating food or money, or giving voice to the issues of hunger and health."
Originally from Lindsborg, Kan., Kejr received her bachelor's degree from North Park University in Chicago, where she was inspired by the school's mission to "lead a life of significance and service."
"When I was younger, I never really knew what my career path would be. I just knew that I wanted to help people," said Kejr, who also earned a master's degree in social work administrative and advocacy practice from the University of Kansas in 2010. "Opportunities came up that allowed me to work, study and serve in diverse communities in the U.S. and abroad. This opened me up to seeing many critical human needs around the world, but in each instance, I knew that I could do something to help. These situations are not hopeless, and these friends and neighbors from all over are just like me. When you can keep that humanity and connection, helping each other is the natural course of action."
With Nov. 26 falling just days after Thanksgiving and the Chiefs hosting a food drive for Harvesters at the game, Blue KC and the Chiefs recognized an opportunity to honor Kejr for her efforts and personal mission to make Kansas City a better place to "live, work and play."
"Harvesters does so much for the community and region, and Jessica plays a vital role in their impact," said Christina Lively, Blue KC's Department Vice President of Marketing and Communications. "With the holidays upon us, it's the perfect time to say thank-you to someone who helps countless people in our community keep food on their tables. We're privileged to recognize Jessica as a Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion." To nominate a local hero like Jessica Kejr to be recognized as a Blue KC Chiefs Kingdom Champion, visit chiefs.com/bluekc.