10/31/2012 by | Comments (0)
The new Sam's Club location in Wentzville / Photo by Shannon O'Connor
Yesterday was a special day for the Sam’s Club team in St. Louis. On Oct. 30, 2012, they celebrated the grand opening of a new Sam’s Club location in Wentzville.
This new location, at 3055 Bear Creek Drive off Wentzville Parkway, will provide residents of St. Charles County and surrounding counties with great employment opportunity, consumer growth, and community giving to local organizations.
We know Sam’s Club staff are thrilled about this new store, but we here at the St. Louis Area Foodbank may be just as excited.
In 2011, Sam’s Club donated more than 49 million pounds of food to Feeding America’s affiliated food banks across the United States.
Since 2007, the nine Sam’s Club locations in the bi-state region have been generously donating to the St. Louis Area Foodbank. In Fiscal Year 2012, the St. Louis Area Foodbank received 848,112 pounds from those nine clubs. That food provided approximately 678,000 meals to families in need.
So it is with great honor and excitement that we partner with the newest and tenth Sam’s Club location.
Our Foodbank trucks pick up from each Club location on a weekly basis. We receive product from the bakery, meat, and deli departments.
After each pickup, the food is brought to the Foodbank where it is weighed, repacked, and prepared for agencies to receive via pickup or delivery. Sam’s Club donations offer our clients a great variety of protein, grains and vitamins, plus the occasional mix of desserts or snack items.
We can’t wait to start getting these types of products from the new Sam’s Club in Wentzville. We thank all our Sam’s Club partners and look forward to working with the staff.
If you are in the Wentzville area and have a moment, stop by to visit, shop, or join the newest addition to the Sam’s Club family and an esteemed partner of the St. Louis Area Foodbank!
Shannon O'Connor is the distribution manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
10/26/2012 by | Comments (0)
Foodbank staff, along with representatives from the Jennings school district and local dignitaries cut the ribbon at the new school pantry / Photo by Bethany Prange
Fact: Children who eat three nutritious meals a day perform much better in school than children who are food insecure.
Even adults can attest that hungry tummies are not conducive to learning or productivity.
But for many St. Louis-area children, the only guaranteed meal they eat each day is the lunch they receive from the free or reduced lunch program at their school.
Preparing students to learn is a priority for teachers and administrators, and it’s a task that goes far beyond just providing books and pencils, says Dr. Tiffany Anderson, superintendent of schools in the Jennings School District.
The overall health and welfare of the child is vital, Anderson says.
So when administrators in her school district realized some of their students were going hungry, they knew they had to take action.
Jennings administrators contacted the St. Louis Area Foodbank about opening a food pantry at one of their schools.
While Foodbank staff had been contemplating the benefits of a school food pantry for many years, we initially did not have the funds or the food to make it happen.
But in September, the Foodbank received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds from the state of Missouri. This funding stipulates that the TANF food must be distributed to families with at least one member age 18 or younger.
A school food pantry seemed like the perfect opportunity to distribute food to children and families in need. With this project in mind, Foodbank staff immediately reached out to the Jennings School District.
On Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2012, the new Jennings Community Cupboard opened at the Jennings Educational Training School. The pantry will be part of a one-year pilot program coordinated by the Foodbank.
A second food pantry will open soon at Shearwater High School in St. Louis. Both school pantries will track the number of children they serve each year to help determine the success of the program and to provide data for further funding.
The food pantry at Shearwater will be open to students of the high school, while the Jennings School District pantry will make their food available to any family with a child enrolled in the district.
At Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at Jennings, Foodbank staff joined administrators from the school district, local residents and Jennings Mayor Benjamin Sutphin for a tour of the new pantry.
Student volunteers, along with volunteers from the district and the community, will sort, stack and bag food for pantry clients. So far, the students have already worked hard to get the pantry up and running.
The pantry will distribute food on the third and fourth Thursdays of every month, starting this month. A family in need of food assistance with a child enrolled in Jennings School District should call their child’s school counselor or social worker.
In addition to partnerships with the Foodbank, Schnucks and Target stores, the Jennings Community Cupboard will accept community donations.
“I have found that it really takes a village to pull all of this together,” says Shelia Nicholson, the director of student services for the Jennings School District.
Nicholson, along with Greg Almus, school administrator at Jennings Educational Training School, helped lead the charge to get the pantry open.
“I’m so glad we have this opportunity,” says Jennings School District Board President Rose Mary Johnson. “We are so glad to spearhead something so important for our community.”
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
10/24/2012 by | Comments (0)
Tim Jackson stands in front of product at the St. Louis Area Foodbank / Photo by Bethany Prange
I’ve worked in the warehousing industry for most of my career, but this is the first non-profit organization that I have worked for. It is by far the most rewarding job I’ve had.
Not only do I get the opportunity to use my inventory tracking and management skills, but I also get to take part in a mission that improves the quality of life in our community.
I’ve been the Inventory Control Manager for almost five years at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. My primary responsibilities include food safety, tracking and reconciliation, and compliance requirements for four state programs.
The Foodbank receives donations from across the country as well as from local donors. Many of the donations are offered to us because they are a) in less than desired packaging or b) items that are close to code, which means they may soon expire.
Sometimes, obtaining and distributing 25 million pounds of food is quite a challenge. We work hard to track, store and distribute every food item safely and accurately. It is my responsibility to make sure all of this happens and to keep a strong relationship with our donors.
Over the past five years, I have noticed an increase in perishable products, particularly through the retail pickup program. The retail pickup program allows us to pick up food directly from local retail stores, such as Walmart and Target.
Roughly 80 percent of the products we pick up from the local retail stores are items that need to be consumed within a short period of time. To make sure this happens and no food goes to waste, we work with member agencies to identify last minute channels of distribution.
Regardless of which agency gets our food, safety is our top priority.
The Foodbank recently began the process of becoming AIB Certified. Taking on a challenge such as this requires discipline from every aspect of food handling. It is our goal to receive a superior rating from AIB – the highest standard of food safety - over the next six months. This certification comes with extreme challenges and requires effort from all departments at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. I take food safety seriously, and I understand that it is our responsibility to provide our community with a quality service.
That’s why we have made investments this year to ensure we can distribute food efficiently and accurately. We will be upgrading our software database this year, an effort that will streamline some of the processes we currently use.
In 2011, we implemented RF scanners in the warehouse. With this technology, we are able to move product using handheld devices in real-time, making us more efficient while eliminating some of the human error out on the floor.
In my time here at the Foodbank, I’ve learned so much about food safety. I have a large responsibility to make sure we distribute food safely at the Foodbank, and I take this responsibility home with me to make sure my family has safe food on the table.
We all put a lot of trust in the stores, restaurants and friends that sometimes prepare food for our family. That’s where I rely on my personal knowledge of food safety. I feel that educating people around me about food safety is important.
A friend recently asked me how he could determine what was still safe to eat in his pantry. I simply directed him to the food life extension list that can be found on our website. My friend found the list useful and was delighted to come across the FDA recall widget on our member’s page.
When someone asks me “what do you do for a living”? I say inventory control at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. The phrase “inventory control” gives some people pause.
After all, we don’t have to worry about sales, right? While that is true, monitoring and protecting our inventory here is perhaps even more important.
I came from a sales/warehousing backround at a for-profit company and I find the tracking of inventory here to be held at a much higher standard. Not only do we need to move product safely, we need to account for every bit of it. Donors want to be sure that we can recall product, handle it safely, and report back on how it impacts the community.
I am fortunate to be part of such a great mission in the St. Louis area. From the member agencies to the donors, we successfully combat the issue of hunger in a safe and effective way.
Tim Jackson is the inventory control manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
10/19/2012 by | Comments (0)
Cans line the shelves of the St. Louis Dream Center / Photo by Bethany Prange
If you didn't know better, you may think this was a small grocery store.
Though there are only three aisles, each aisle is lined with shelves full of foods you might see at any grocer - from canned veggies and meat to boxes of macaroni and cheese.
That "grocery store" feeling is exactly what the staff at the St. Louis Dream Center was hoping for when they started their food pantry.
Some people find it embarrassing or difficult to ask for help, even when they're in dire need of food assistance, says Jeremy Pickens, food ministry coordinator at the St. Louis Dream Center.
By designing a clean, modern front office and a pantry where clients get to choose their food, the Dream Center strives to make clients as comfortable as possible.
Since the pantry feeds between 1,500 and 2000 individuals a month, it's a steady job just keeping the shelves full of food.
The pantry receives 75 percent of its food from the St. Louis Area Foodbank, Pickens says. It's rare that food stays on the shelves for very long.
"Even the figs only lasted maybe three months," Pickens says, noting that even a product like dried figs, which many people aren't familiar with, fly off the shelves.
The Dream Center, an outreach of Joyce Meyer Ministries, does more than just operate a food pantry. The church operates 33 different outreach ministries, from a street ministry to help the homeless to a soup kitchen and an Adopt-A-Block community betterment program.
The Dream Center also runs a successful after-school feeding program that provides almost 900 children with a guaranteed meal every weekday.
Five days a week, Dream Center volunteers bag up a hot meal, a juice box and a small snack. Bus drivers from nine local schools hand out the meals to children in need as they get off the bus. For many of these kids, this meal is the only one they'll eat until the next day when they get lunch at school, Pickens says.
“By the look on their faces, you can tell they’re really hungry,” Pickens says.
So far in 2012, the Dream Center food pantry has provided more than 300,000 meals, and it seems that number will continue to grow.
In January 2012, the pantry served 38,000 meals in a month. Just months later, in August 2012, the pantry served 61,000 meals.
"I think its need," Pickens says. "We've seen a lot of first time clients."
On any given pantry day - every day but Thursdays - Pickens speculates that 25 percent of the clients are first-time visitors to a food pantry.
Clients who visit the pantry are a mix of unemployed adults and people classified as the working poor - those who have jobs but don't make enough to provide the necessities. Many who visit the Dream Center pantry are senior citizens.
In their neighborhood in North St. Louis, the Dream Center has become a community gathering place for both those in need, and those wanting to help. The tithes and offerings from the Dream Center's church fund the ministries, with help from Joyce Meyer Ministries.
Most of the work is done by volunteers, and fortunately, the Dream Center has plenty of adults willing to help out.
Many volunteers go on to get jobs in the community, Pickens says.
One gentlemen was unemployed and living with his five children in an abandoned house. He came to the Dream Center for help and began volunteering.
“He treated it as a full-time job,” Pickens says. “His work here led to a full-time job at St. Vincent de Paul.”
Many of the volunteers at the Dream Center could use food assistance as much as the pantry clients, but most don’t take it because they feel others need it more, Pickens says.
Toiletries are so in demand that when the Dream Center staff gave small boxes of toiletries as prizes at a staff holiday party, the volunteers were overjoyed.
“It was amazing to see volunteers’ eyes light up when they get a $5 basket,” Pickens says.
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator for the St. Louis Area Foodbank
10/17/2012 by | Comments (0)
Volunteers at Good Samaritan Ministries prepare a meal for other clients / Photo by Bethany Prange
A giddy toddler munches on cereal, delighted to fish the marshmallows out of his Lucky Charms.
To him, this is just a regular day in a place where he’s the center of attention.
Everyone showers him with attention, from his mother and the staff to the volunteers and residents of the Good Samaritan Ministries transitional housing program.
He is, after all, an undeniably cute kid.
And at age 1, he is also blissfully unaware of just how important this place really is.
This is a place where this little boy and the men and women at the table around him can count on three meals a day, seven days a week.
Here, at the Good Samaritan Ministries soup kitchen in Carbondale, Illinois, people in need gather for a meal and some companionship. This place is also home to a transitional housing residence and an emergency shelter.
Last month, the soup kitchen served almost 2,400 meals, says JoAnn Grammer, food service manager for Good Samaritan Ministries.
JoAnn oversees the soup kitchen and the food pantry operated by Good Samaritan. Both are agencies of the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
As is the case at most Foodbank agencies, JoAnn says both the soup kitchen and the food pantry report have seen an increase in clients in recent years. The pantry is now serving 515 families a month.
“When I first started, the pantry’s average was 35 people a day,” JoAnn says. “Now I do 50 to 80 people a day.”
Fortunately, JoAnn doesn’t have to take care of all those folks on her own.
She relies on her volunteers to help sort, repack and hand out food at the pantry, and to help prepare meals and clean up at the soup kitchen.
John Jones, a resident of Good Samaritan’s transitional housing program, has been volunteering at the soup kitchen and pantry for two years.
John, 47, says he volunteers his time because it is his way of returning the favor.
“They’ve always been nice to me. They’re good people and it’s fun to help out,” John says.
Dave Lochbihler, 58, is also a resident in the transitional housing unit. He volunteers at both the pantry and the soup kitchen, helping to sort, carry and put away the food.
But this self-taught cook is also the main chef on weekends at the soup kitchen. Over time, he’s gotten the knack for cooking for a big group. His Italian beef is a crowd favorite.
“They seem to enjoy it,” Dave says.
When asked why they volunteer their times, John and Dave agree it makes them feel good.
“I like to see the people’s smiles on their faces,” Dave says. “You give them something little and they appreciate it.”
John and Dave are both working to make better lives for themselves, and don’t mind helping others while they’re at it.
“I’ve bettered myself from where I was a few years ago,” Dave says. “I feel like for what they have given me, I’m putting it back into the program.”
The biggest turnout for meals in the soup kitchen is at dinner. And the later it gets in the month, the more people show up because they no longer have money for food.
Even when they get on their feet and are able to move out of Good Samaritan, both John and Dave say they plan to come back and volunteer.
“I’d come back on my own,” John says.
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank