01/04/2013 by | Comments (0)
As we head into 2013, I have new hope about the prospects of significantly reducing the amount of people going hungry in America.
Here are 13 reasons the future looks brighter:
• The St. Louis Area Foodbank’s school food pantry program – Children make up the largest percentage of those in need of assistance from the Foodbank. We were happy to be able to open a food pantry in the Jennings School District in 2012 and we hope to be able to expand the program in 2013. To learn more about the program, click here to view the article on STLToday.com.
• The “Invest an Acre” program - ADM, The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Monsanto and Feeding America have partnered to launch Invest an Acre, a program that encourages farmers across the country to donate one or more acres of crop proceeds to help fight hunger in their own communities. Click here to learn more.
• More client choice food pantries – The client choice model allows clients to participate in choosing the food they will take home instead of being handed a prepackaged bag of food. This model provides more dignity to individuals receiving items from the pantry, and eliminates unwanted or wasted food. Click here for a web exclusive video from NBC’s Dateline that follows a young mother as she picks up food for her family at a client choice food pantry.
• The St. Louis Area Foodbank’s Social Media Avengers – The Social Media Avengers started out as an idea to encourage influential social media users in the bi-state region to take an active approach to the issue of hunger. It became a network of people promoting the Foodbank and our mission across many different platforms from Facebook to Twitter. In the past year, the Foodbank has added 1,000 new followers on Twitter and received more than 500 new Facebook likes. Avengers have also volunteered at Foodbank mobile distributions, offered guidance on Foodbank events and even helped launch a Twitter hashtag - #ABetter STL which helps promote other nonprofits doing good in our community.
• Celebrities getting behind the cause – Let’s face it, we live in a celebrity culture. People are fascinated by who is pregnant, who is getting divorced, and who just got arrested. However, it’s also good to see more celebrities using their influence for good. Nick Cannon recently sat down with Lester Holt on NBC’s Dateline to speak about his personal experiences receiving food from a food pantry as a kid. Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks across the country, has established an entertainment council comprised of various celebrities that help bring awareness to the issue.
• Addressing food deserts – A food desert is a district in an urban or rural setting with little or no access to large grocery stores. In these neighborhoods, residents have little or no access to fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. Instead of such stores, these districts often contain many fast food restaurants and convenience stores. Through organizations like Fresh Moves in Chicago and City Greens in St. Louis, individuals are working to bring fresh produce into these food deserts. The Foodbank also works to get produce into the hands of those that desperately need it through our Food Fairs and our Mobile Market Program.
• Kids giving back – It is so encouraging to see young people getting involved with fighting hunger in their communities. Sarah, an eighth grader from Maryland Heights, collected 130 pounds of food from her friends at her birthday party. Since 2004, students at Mary Institute Country Day School have been collecting turkeys for hungry families in the region. This year alone, they collected more than 7,000 pounds of turkeys. In addition to all the food collected through food drives, the list of schools that have come out to the Foodbank are too numerous to list here.
• Retail store pick-up program growth – The Foodbank’s retail store pick-up program has come a long way since we were a pilot program location for Sam’s Club stores. The Foodbank now picks up from 138 retail stores located on both sides of the river. That’s up from 105 participating stores the year before. The program provides more food for those in need and reduces the amount of product discarded by the stores.
• New events – In August 2012, the Foodbank held the first ever “Hunger Is No Laughing Matter” comedy event at the Pageant with Mike Birbiglia and Greg Warren. The event sold more than 800 tickets and plans are already underway for this year’s event. Joining Hunger is No Laughing Matter and the Taste of the NFL as signature Foodbank events is Wine, Women and Shoes. This new event will take place on May 29 at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton. Tickets are available here. These signature events generate not only additional funds to help bring more food into the area, but also additional awareness for the Foodbank and the issue of hunger.
• Increased community support – In 2012, nearly 500 area schools, businesses and organizations held food and funds drives for the Foodbank. That’s an amazing number and once the food arrives at the Foodbank, it needs to be sorted and repackaged to be distributed to our partner agencies. That leads to the next amazing number – 16,000. That’s the number of volunteers who spent time helping out at the Foodbank in 2012. It’s also 4,000 more volunteers than we had the year before.
• Disaster relief – When disaster strikes, Americans pitch in to help out. The most recent example took place after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the east coast. It was so encouraging to see organizations like Feeding America working with local food banks and other disaster relief agencies to get food into the hands of those who needed it most. Locally, the Foodbank worked with Ozarks Food Harvest in Springfield after the devastating tornado in Joplin, sending supplies and staff to help in the rebuilding effort. After a tornado hit the Bridgeton area in 2011, the Foodbank worked with the United Way to get supplies to those affected by the storm.
• Government officials get involved – Hunger is a bi-partisan issue. The Foodbank has hosted Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and most recently, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, over the past few years. We’ve also received support at Food Fairs from the offices of U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, IL State Representative John Bradley and U.S. Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson. It’s important to keep all officials aware of how hunger affects their constituents.
• Long term planning – It’s nice to come to work every day knowing that everyone in the building, no matter what their position in the organization, is working towards a common goal. That’s what we have here at the Foodbank. Our senior management team has the experience to know where we’ve been and foresight to guide us into the future. Ending hunger is a daunting proposition, but we know that we have the strategic plan in place to ensure that we are distributing as much food as possible and growing with the need.
Ryan Farmer is the communications manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
12/26/2012 by | Comments (0)
Volunteers from Standing Partnership repackage donated product in the Foodbank's Volunteer Center / Photo by Bethany Prange
They say it takes a village, and here at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, we know that is true.
Sure, we have full-time staff who helps bring in food donations and make sure it goes out to those who need it most.
But without the volunteers who so generously give us their time, we couldn't provide as many meals to families in need.
In 2012, more than 16,000 volunteers dedicated their free time to helping feed families in need. That's not even including those who volunteered their time to holding food drives and fundraisers! These are the volunteers sorted, repackaged and boxed up thousands of pounds of food here at the Foodbank.
Our volunteers make such an impact that they are the equivalent of 21 additional full-time employees!
Each month, volunteers of all ages devote 3,669 hours to the Foodbank. We couldn't be more grateful.
Check out some videos of our volunteers and a great picture slideshow.
Thank you, one and all, for your commitment to helping those in need.
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
12/21/2012 by | Comments (0)
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt examines the contents of a box of food packaged at the St. Louis Area Foodbank for low-income senior citizens / Photo by Ryan Farmer
As the holidays approach, many of us find ourselves searching for ways we can give back to our community.
Most of us are familiar with the tried and true acts of charity:
• Donating food, clothing, toys & other items to charities like the St. Louis Area Foodbank or Toys or Tots.
• Volunteering time, whether by sorting and repacking food for the hungry at the Foodbank, or tutoring an underprivileged teen.
• Donating money to a favorite charity, whether that means dropping a few dollars into the Salvation Army bell ringer’s red bucket, or making an online donation.
But one way we can all help ensure the future safety and health of our neighbors in need is by lending our voices to support the protection of government programs that offer safety nets for the poor.
As Congress works to write a new Farm Bill and bring our fiscal house in order, we, as generous Americans, must remind our legislators that they must not balance the budget by cutting programs that put food on the table for those less fortunate.
The St. Louis Area Foodbank is a proud member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic charity committed to feeding the hungry. Feeding America offers many suggestions for ways to voice your support for struggling Americans.
• Write or email your representatives and senators and let them know that cuts to SNAP (food stamps) will be devastating on the 50 million Americans living in food insecurity.
• Visit with your local legislators in person, and voice your support for protecting invaluable safety nets like SNAP and The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
• Call Congress! Just dial Feeding America’s toll-free number, enter your zip code, and you’ll be connected to your Member of Congress’s office. Take your advocacy to the next!
• Share your story here. If you’ve struggled with hunger, or if you know someone who has, offer legislators a picture of how hunger looks in your community.
• Initiate a letter-writing campaign with your neighbors, your church group or friends. Encourage them to convey this message:
I support my local food bank, and I know they are struggling to meet the needs of our community. Food donations are drying up, gas and food prices remain high, and nearly 50 million Americans are living in food insecurity. Cuts to SNAP will be devastating. While food banks, churches, and pantries are doing great work in our community, charity alone cannot meet the need for food assistance.
You have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of hungry Americans. As Congress considers how to write a new Farm Bill and reduce our national debt, Congress must protect and strengthen hunger-relief programs like the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). With unemployment still high and many Americans struggling to make ends meet, Congress cannot cut the programs that are helping many of our neighbors put food on the table. Given the associated healthcare, educational, and economic costs of hunger and poor nutrition, cuts to these programs are not only immoral, they are short-sighted and costly in the long run.
As your constituent, I ask that you remember the families who are struggling in our state and remain committed to protecting programs that are a lifeline for hungry Americans. Please pass a strong Farm Bill that that protects and invests in TEFAP and SNAP.
For more information on ways you can be a hunger advocate and take action for your community this holiday season, visit Feeding America’s Hunger Action Center.
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
12/19/2012 by | Comments (0)
Need yet another reason to Rally for St. Louis?
Let’s remember there are seminal moments in St. Louis history: the Arch is built, the first BLT at Crown Candy Kitchen is served, the Rams come to town, and of course, the greatest pre-holiday scooter race between two Santa Claus’ in the history of pre-holiday scooter races between multiple Santa Claus’ is one of them.
Thus, the efficiently named Rally Saint Louis’ Reason for the Season Rabble-Rousers Santa Razor Race Round Downtown To Fight Hunger (and working on Friday afternoons) will kickoff at high noon on December 21 at the corner of 10th Street & Washington Avenue and proceed with lightening speed through downtown St. Louis, ending in front of Mango on 11th Street & Lucas Avenue.
Along the way, it’s the holiday time and there are many St. Louisans in need, so we’ll be collecting canned food items for the St. Louis Area Foodbank, as well as spreading good cheer, and periodically delivering roundhouse kicks to unruly rabblerousers.
If you are interested in racing you need two things: a kickin’ scooter and a mind-melting holiday costume!
Route details are below – sign up to attend on Facebook here – but whatever you do be sure to join us for a prompt start at noon on December 21 at the corner of 10th & Washington!
Aaron Perlut is Managing Partner & Chief Nuclear Mustache Grooming Specialist at Elasticity
12/14/2012 by | Comments (0)
Patrick Delhougne accepts a check on behalf of the St. Louis Area Foodbank from Sammy Hagar / Photo by Ryan Farmer
Remember When Bob Dylan Made a Christmas Album?
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down memory lane. . .
Ah, yes. With the holidays comes all those great songs we have loved since childhood.
Winter Wonderland, Here Comes Santa Claus, Jingle Bells, Must Be Santa and so on.
A long list of musical artists have covered or created holiday music in the last century. On that list is the great Bob Dylan.
In 2009, Dylan released an album called Christmas at Heart, with proceeds benefitting hunger relief charities all over the world.
That got me thinking about the ways that musicians have supported important causes. I wondered what other musical artists have supported hunger relief.
So, I casually started a list. It’s certainly not comprehensive nor is the list subject to one particular musical style.
Artists have encouraged fans to bring non-perishable items to concerts, donated a portion of proceeds from album sales, or served on entertainment councils. Check out the diverse group of artists who have supported hunger relief:
• Bob Dylan
• Bruce Springsteen
• Tom Waits
• Rough Shop
• Widespread Panic
• Bryan Greenberg
• Bon Jovi
• Tim McGraw
• Kenny Rodgers
• Willie Nelson
• Brad Paisley
• Miranda Lambert
• Lady Antebellum
• Zac Brown Band
• Toby Keith
• Jason Aldean
• The Urge
• Kenny Chesney
• Def Leppard
• Sara Bareilles
• Toby Keith
• Rascal Flats
• Reba McEntire
• Martina McBride
• The Band Perry
• Eli Young Band
• Justin Moore
• Brantley Gilbert
• Sunny Sweeney
• Eden’s Edge
• Ella Mae Bowen
• Thomas Rhett
• 50 Cent
• Sheryl Crow
• Spencer Day
• Josh Groban
• Ben Harper
• Kimberly Locke
• Jay Sean
• Katharine McPhee
• Benji & Joel Madden
• Phil Vassar
• Kellie Pickler
Even local musicians and bands jump at the chance to give back to the community.
Just this weekend, for instance, three locals bands – Million Hits, Lunar Levitation and Four Feet Skyscraper – will be performing at Cicero’s in St. Louis. The bands are asking everyone attending their Saturday concert to bring canned goods for the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
Someone once said that music could heal the world. Judging by the generosity of musicians in and around St. Louis, it seems that just might be true.
Patrick Delhougne is a development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank