The weak economy, lay offs, unexpected medical expenses as well as rising food costs are creating more families in need and stretching the resources available in churches, soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters. In addition to those who have been below the poverty level, many middle class families now find themselves hungry.
The St. Louis Area Foodbank along with partner agencies strive to provide food for people living in poverty in the St. Louis area, including West County and Jefferson County, among others. The Food Bank holds food fairs, going to various counties in their service area and handing out fresh produce and non-perishable items to people in need.
Fresh produce, baked goods and dairy products are delivered by the Food Bank to partner agencies using mobile markets, however the majority of products are picked up by these agencies.
The Food Bank also provides a one month's supply of food and household items to homeless families transitioning into permanent housing.
The Food Bank can provide four meals to hungry people with the donation of just $1. Local agencies that provide assistance in various counties are listed on their website by zipcode, making it easy to find help. Bethany Prange, communications coordinator for the Food Bank added, "Any time an individual is in need of food assistance, whether it is a holiday or any other day of the year, our agencies are here to provide it. All a person has to do is call us at 314-292-6262 and we will look up the phone number and location of the nearest open Food Bank agency."
St. Louis Foodbank also has volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups. Individuals may sign up through the Food Bank website. "I realize that around the holidays, we all start to think about our own families and reflect more on the situations of those around us. We appreciate the generosity at this time of year very much", Prange said.
Operation Food Search, established in 1981, services 265 pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters in the St. Louis area including Ballwin, Ellisville, Chesterfield and Arnold. Approximately 150, 000 people (half of which are children) are provided with over two million pounds of food per month. "Many people are recognizing the need, new people are stepping in to help, and some regular donors are providing more support, while other donors are now the ones in need"..."The current economy has brought home the problem of hunger", said Sunny Schaefer, executive director of Operation Food Search. Schaefer shared statistics, estimating that one in four people live below the poverty line. "The homeless are the tip of the iceberg. We also help the working poor, those who are underemployed, without medical benefits and unable to make ends meet", said Schaefer.
Circle of Concern in Valley Park provides food to over 1700 individuals per month, particularly those in the Rockwood, Parkway and Valley Park school districts. Circle of Concern stated in their November newsletter there is a record demand for assistance and a dramatic decrease in donations. This has caused a decrease of ten pounds of food per basket for recipients. Circle of Concern is currently in need of cereal, pasta, canned meat and fruit, peanut butter and jelly, and paper towels. They are also holding a blanket drive to keep people warm in the coming winter months ($10 would also provide a family with an extra blanket).
People can help all of the pantries by organizing a food drive, supporting food drives at area schools, congregations and businesses, and of course by donating directly.
Thanksgiving Dinners and Pantries Offering Food
in Arnold will be having a community Thanksgiving starting at 11:30 a.m.. Turkey, fixings, rolls and desserts will be served.
The is providing a hen or turkey (depending on the size of family in need) and Thanksgiving fixings to their clients. People in need who are not clients, may be able to receive assistance, depending on turn out, for Thanksgiving. For assistance or to see if you qualify to become a client, call the pantry at 636-467-5757.
Windsor Baptist Church in Imperial is serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner from 11 a.m. -1 p.m., Thanksgiving Day. Windsor Baptist Church welcomes everyone to share Thanksgiving Dinner. "Congregation members will come in and talk to those who attend, that way no one has to eat alone this Thanksgiving", said LaJean Woodworth, the ministry assistant. The church will also provide dinner for people who are home bound. The food for the dinner was donated by the owners of Two Hearts Banquet Center who are also members of the congregation. Other congregation members baked pies for the dinner;each person who is home bound will receive an entire pie with their meal as well.
Correction: This article version correctly spells St. Louis Area Foodbank's name and the organization works with roughly 500 agencies. The writer and editors erred.