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Summertime and the Living’s Not So Easy

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A child enjoys a bowl of cereal and some fruit for breakfast / Photo courtesy of Feeding America

 As a kid growing up in Boonville, Mo., summertime meant little league baseball games, trips to the Lake of the Ozarks with my grandparents and running through the sprinkler in my front lawn.  I have a lot of fond memories of the summer months.  Summer just always felt so free to me.  It stayed light outside longer, there was no homework to worry about and I certainly didn’t have to think about where my next meal was coming from.

Unfortunately, for many kids in the United States the summer months are not as fun.  When schools let out for the summer, millions of kids from across the country are forced to look for new sources of food.

According to the most recent data from FRAC, more than 9.4 million kids participate in the free or reduced National School Breakfast Program and more than 20 million kids participate in the free or reduced National School Lunch Program.

That’s a lot of meals to make up and it’s no easy task, especially when you factor in that many of these kids’ parents are either unemployed, underemployed or working multiple part time jobs.  Even if their parents are bringing home a paycheck that doesn’t always equate to meals on the table.

After the monthly bills are paid, there’s often very little to pay for food.  Food banks help feed these families in need.

Children make up the largest segment of the population receiving food assistance from the St. Louis Area Foodbank and within our 26-county service territory, there are more than 148,000 kids that are food insecure.

The short-term impact of hunger on kids is tough, but the long term implications can be devastating.

Studies show that proper nutrition improves a child’s behavior, school performance and overall cognitive development.

That’s what makes food banks so important.  We help fill in the meal gap over the summer months.  We’re there for those kids in need, but we need your help.  Whether it’s sorting and re-packaging food to go out to our partner agencies, making a monetary donation to help us bring more food into the area or hosting a food drive to help feed these hungry kids, you can make a difference.

As a kid, I was lucky.  I had two amazing parents and there was always food on the table.  Summer was fun because I didn’t have a care in the world.

I am currently blessed to work at the St. Louis Area Foodbank and along with all the other terrific employees here, we’re working hard every day to help feed those 148,000 food insecure children who aren’t as lucky.

It may be summertime for them, but the living certainly isn’t easy.

For more data on childhood food insecurity, please check out the interactive map on Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap page – http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-studies/map-the-meal-gap.aspx .

Ryan Farmer

 

 

Ryan Farmer is the communications manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Lonely Dented Cans

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A representative from a St. Louis Area Foodbank partner agency loads donated Target product, inlcuding two bicycles, into their van / Photo by Shannon O’ Connor

I’m a finicky shopper, just like everyone else.

If I see a dented can of green beans on a grocery aisle, I’m probably not going to pick it up and throw it in my cart. I’ll reach out and grab a can that hasn’t been dropped by a rambunctious toddler.

When I choose a tomato or cantaloupe, I’m probably not going to go straight for the one that has a funny spot on it.

Even thought I logically realize that the spotted fruit is just as good as the spotless tomato right next to it, I’m still going to choose the shiniest, prettiest piece of fruit I can find.

Like me, I’m sure you have wondered what happens to all that “unchosen” food? What happens to the lonely dented cans, the misshapen fruit and the bread that is past one day old?

If customers don’t buy it, and the stores need to clear their shelves to make more room for new items, where does all that stuff go? It’s still good, high-quality food!

Target

Fortunately for the families we serve, many local stores donate that food to the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Here, we provide a temporary home to those ugly tomatoes and dented cans. And within a few days, we send it out to hungry families right here in the bi-state region.

Across the country, Feeding America and its affiliated Foodbanks partner with major grocery chains such as Walmart, Sam’s Club, SuperValu and Target.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank alone receives nearly 14 million pounds of donated product each year; 3.7 million of which comes directly from these retail/wholesale donors.

Canned goods, fresh produce, bread, dairy and meat come in every week from 114 individual stores right here in our region!

For example, Target has 22 committed locations which provide us with not just high quality meat and produce, but also essential home goods and personal care items.  So far this year, Target has donated more than 266,000 pounds.

It takes a team effort to get that unsold food from the stores to the Foodbank, and we truly appreciate every store employee who helps make it happen.

One top store that not only presents high donation numbers, but also provides a great mixture of items for our needy families is Target Bridgeton.  Since 2008, the enthusiastic team at Target Bridgeton has helped provide a high quality mix of nutritious food for the 261,000 people we serve every year!

So far this year, they have already donated more than 21,000 pounds.

This week I had the opportunity to accompany Foodbank driver Denise Daugherty as she made her routine pickup at this store.

The store’s receiving manager, Laura Vitale, greeted us at the door.  Laura has worked at Target for 30 years, and had great positive feedback about our partnership.

We did a brief Q & A:

Foodbank: Has a customer ever asked you what Target does with its unsellable items?  If so, what was your response?

Vitale: Absolutely.  I have been asked in the past as well as recently and of course explained that we donate to the St. Louis Area Foodbank.  I provide them with a brief explanation of how the program works.

Foodbank: Among the different categories Target is encouraged to donate from, which do you see the most donations?

Vitale: Well we obviously give more produce since the start of the PFresh program at the store.  Meat items have been increasing as well, due to updates in guidelines and the systematic and timely manner to pull product ready for donation and how to store it until you guys come pick it up.  Overall, I would say each category is showing growth due to the aggressive steps taken by our consumables manager to get each department on board, as well as myself going through the product and organizing it in the warehouse.

Foodbank:  Please detail the donation process.

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Vitale: Our department team leaders communicate well in making sure that any potentially donated product is pulled properly from shelves, stored in the right spot, and then sent to me or to customer service, depending on the type of item.  The paper and personal care (or nonfood) items are usually directed to customer service and then processed by me in receiving.  A driver from the St. Louis Area Foodbank picks up from this location Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week.  When the driver calls to notify me of her arrival time, I contact the departments to have them bring their donations to the warehouse.  The items are separated on pallets by product category.  The driver loads up the truck and signs off for the donation.  It goes smoothly each time.  The donations are taken to your facility and then I know distributed to the agencies.

Foodbank: What is the strangest or most unique donation you have given to us that you recall?

Vitale: That is hard to say.  I like to be sure that any item that fits within our guidelines but is still usable or eatable be given to your organization.  However, I would have to say that some of the most unusual items fit under the nonfood category such as today’s BBQ grill we are giving you or the bikes we have given in the past.  Nothing is particularly wrong with these items but they are considered “damaged” or “donated” due to a dent or chipped paint for example.  I know that someone can fix and find use for these items so there is no sense in wasting them.

Foodbank: What is your favorite part about the donation process and what stands out about the Foodbank?

Vitale: I feel proud that Target helps contribute to serving those less fortunate.  I feel proud that I helped to provide something that a family may need and was not otherwise able to pay for on their own.  Also personal care items such as shampoos are important for the individuals to get since food stamps do not always cover such needs.  The St. Louis Area Foodbank works well with Target.  The drivers are consistently prompt, helpful, and provide great attitudes.  Your organization allows us to make use of unsellable items and answers any questions we may have about donations.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank is honored to partner with Target, as well as other retail companies in our service area.  We value the donations given through this program and hope to encourage those retailers and/or wholesalers not already affiliated to please contact us.  We would be happy to work with others in the area and make it easier for stores to operate and minimize waste.

For all the consumers out there, feel free to contact us with any local stores you frequent that may not be donating to an organization such as the Foodbank.

And don’t feel too guilty about not buying that misshapen cantaloupe! It’s getting eaten!

ShannonOConnor_blog

 

 

Shannon O’Connor is the product solicitation coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

An Appetite for Branding – Showcasing the Food

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Photo by Bethany Prange

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, I’m sure you know by now that food is our business around here. Feeding hungry people is the most important work we do every day at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, and we couldn’t do it without support from the community.

Individuals and companies in the St. Louis region help us by volunteering, hosting food drives, and spreading awareness.

From time to time, local organizations and businesses also host fundraisers – unique events that benefit the Foodbank and our mission of feeding families in need.

Next week, Enrich Creative and FEAST magazine will host just such an event.

On Monday, June 25, 2012, they will host Brand Appetite, a marketing and design forum, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Contemporary Art Museum, 3750 Washington Boulevard in Grand Center.

A panel of experts will discuss branding and marketing specifically for food industry businesses. So if you are thinking of opening a restaurant or shop, or creating your own food product, this is a brilliant opportunity to learn how to market your brand.

Even if you’re an industry pro looking for marketing guidance to grow your existing food business, you do not want to miss this night of insight and networking.

Panelists will give valuable advice on everything from establishing a brand new food product and running a restaurant to developing a visual brand and social media strategy.

Experts include: Andy Bartling of Sales Message Marketing; Gretchen Schisla and Kory Waschick of Enrich; Arlene Maminta Browne of Robust Wine Bar; Tom Niemeier of SPACE Architecture + Design; and Stefanie Garcia of Whole Foods Market.

Tickets are just $25 and all proceeds benefit the St. Louis Area Foodbank. Everyone in attendance will have the chance to win a one-hour marketing consultation with the team at Enrich. One lucky winner will be announced at the event.

To RSVP for the event visit http://brandappetite.eventbrite.com/

The St. Louis Area Foodbank always appreciates the opportunity to partner with businesses for events like this one. Some organizations even offer an ongoing project which can benefit your favorite charity.

Charity Mile

For instance, if you live within walking or biking distance of the Contemporary Art Museum, be sure to check out Charity Miles, a free iPhone/Android app that empowers people to earn money for charity.

Bikers earn 10 cents per mile; walkers and runners earn 25 cents per mile. Feeding America is one of 10 charity partners. St. Louis Area Foodbank will receive a portion of funds generated by the app when it is used in our 26 county service territory!

Patrick Delhougne is the development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

 

Bunnies Have The Right Idea

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Customers pick up some fresh produce from the Riverbend Roots Farm booth at the Webster Groves Farmers Market / Photo by Shannon O’Connor

If bunny rabbits had a grocery list, where would they shop?

I’ll give you a hint – there is probably one right in your own neighborhood.

You guessed it. Farmers markets!

(What? If you were a bunny, wouldn’t you want the freshest lettuce and carrots you could buy?)

Luckily, we humans DO get to shop at these open air markets of goodness.

Every spring and summer, local farmers, growers and crafters come together to offer an array of fresh fruit, vegetables, spices, dairy products and home-canned goods.

Depending on the market location and the number of vendors participating, the farmers market can be a one-stop shop for your veggie and produce needs.

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At the Webster Groves Farmers Market, more than 25 different vendors display their wares every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. In only its third year in downtown Webster, this farmers market has made a huge impact on the community.

“We only hope to get more vendors and potentially work out an opportunity to have donations available to the Foodbank or its agencies after the market concludes,” says Market Master Angela Foley. “We are looking forward to more years to come and enjoy seeing the mixture of people who attend each week, especially all of the families.”

Here are some of best things about farmers markets. They can:

  • Ignite social activity by getting people out and about in the neighborhood.
  • Bring a variety of new faces to a neighborhood, thus encouraging networking between various social and cultural groups.
  • Generate revenue for vendors and the neighborhood.
  • Bring fresh produce to neighborhoods with limited access to healthy food items such fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Promote farmers and growers! Farmers large and small get to generate business and meet customers face-to-face.
  • Encourage a healthy diet. If you see it, you’ll eat it! Markets offer a variety of fresh, locally-grown produce. Many items are organic or have fewer chemicals.
  • Offer reasonable prices. By keeping their products local and avoiding overhead costs, vendors can often charge less than grocery stores.
  • Provide hands-on learning experiences. Growers can share recipes and advice on preparing fresh ingredients.
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A farmers market should and can be a fun outdoor adventure for the whole family. This is your opportunity to teach your children about making good food choices.

Right now, 16.7 million children in the United States live in households that don’t have access to wholesome foods. Since food insecure children are sick more often, recuperate more slowly, and are more apt to be hospitalized at an average cost of $12,000 per visit, this is a major concern for all of us.

Source: www.alliancetoendhunger.org and www.pediatricsdigest.mobi

With obesity rates skyrocketing, the need for more fresh produce is even more important. Farmers markets are just part of the solution to getting healthier foods to those who need it most.

 

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If you’re a farmer or grower in the bi-state area, it may just be worth your time to get involved in a farmers market.

Kris Larson of Riverbend Roots Farm is a vendor at Webster Groves Farmers Market.

 

“Since we are eager to extend our reach by participating in farmers markets, we hope to build a larger customer basis while also growing as a farm,” Larson says. “We give excess or close-to-date items from our farm straight to an Alton, Illinois church organization so that they may provide to the families in need.”

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Like Riverbend Roots, any grower, gardener or farmer who has any excess, off spec, close-to-code, or sample products are encouraged to donate these items to the St. Louis Area Foodbank or one of our partner agencies.
Last year, the Foodbank distributed 1,902,800 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. Our clients certainly appreciate the fresh produce – even if it isn’t perfectly shaped!

For the farmers market in your area check out the following sites:

http://agebb.missouri.edu/fmktdir/view.asp
http://mda.mo.gov/abd/fmkt/
http://www.agr.state.il.us/markets/farmers/

ShannonOConnor_blog

 

Shannon O’Connor is the product solicitation coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

 

30,000 Pounds of Good Will


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Volunteers at a recent St. Louis Area Foodbank Food Fair load up a car with potatoes / Photo by Bethany Prange

The driver parks the Foodbank truck and then quickly unloads the pallets of food, careful to place the items in the correct order.  Volunteers buzz about, re-bagging 50 pound bags of produce into portions more suitable for a family.  Legislators and their staffers arrive and ask where they are most needed. And then the line of cars starts moving…

This is what it feels like to be at a St. Louis Area Foodbank Food Fair.  Food Fairs are a unique opportunity for Foodbank staffers to directly serve those in need.

Using distribution statistics, the Foodbank’s Agency Relations team identifies outlying counties in our service territory that are in need of additional pounds of food to assist with the increasing amount of people in poverty within those counties. Working in conjunction with partner agencies, the Foodbank allocates 200 vouchers to the agency to be distributed to their neediest families. These vouchers allow the families to access the event, and receive additional items to supplement their food supply.

During the event, clients drive slowly along a row of pallets filled with a mix of shelf-stable product, fresh produce, bread and other nutritious items. The line is manned by volunteers, who load the product into the client’s cars. The line moves continuously for two hours, until all of the vouchers for that day have been collected; all that remains are bare pallets once hidden by overflowing food.

That quickly, up to 30,000 lbs of food has been efficiently dispensed into the hands of those that need it most.

The Agency Relations staff is proud to stand by the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s mission of feeding hungry people by distributing food through our partner agencies.  When we’re able to directly assist in the mission alongside our partners and volunteers at food fairs, it helps remind us why we’re in this fight against hunger.

Sara Lewis

 

 

Sara Lewis is an agency relations coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Cans of Corn Could Get You Backstage

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Fans donate to the Foodbank for their chance to meet Brad Paisley / Photo by Ryan Farmer

Few things say summer like outdoor concerts.  It seems like a rite of passage to grab a blanket and a couple of your best friends for a night of music under the stars at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

There is little that compares with watching your favorite artists perform the songs you’ve belted out alone in your car a thousand times before, with the exception of going backstage to profess your admiration firsthand.  We would like to give you that opportunity.

For the second year in a row, the St. Louis Area Foodbank is partnering with Live Nation on a summer-long food drive outside the amphitheater.  Last summer, the Foodbank collected nearly 20 tons of food to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the amphitheater.  This summer, “Sevens Are Wild.”

Live Nation is bringing seven great country concerts to St. Louis.  Artists like Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith and Jason Aldean will entertain the masses like they have done so many times both here and across the country.  For every $7 donation or seven non-perishable food items donated to the St. Louis Area Foodbank outside the gates, fans will receive a raffle ticket for the chance to meet that night’s headliner.

We’ve enlisted both local country stations, 92.3 WIL and 93.7 The Bull, to help get the word out.  We know that country music has some of the most generous fans you’ll ever find, but we want to know which station can generate the most donations.

The station that brings in the most by the end of the summer will receive a special prize from Live Nation to give away to its listeners in any manner they see fit.  It’s a friendly competition where the real winners are hungry families throughout the bi-state region.

For a complete list of “Sevens Are Wild” shows, please click here.

We know that the decision to donate to a charity is an important one and there are many different choices out there.  We are thankful to have partners like Live Nation who are offering up once in a lifetime experiences to St. Louis country music fans in return for making a donation that may change someone’s life.

Ryan Farmer

 

Ryan Farmer is the communications manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

 

Social Media Ethics

 

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Social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus have become common in the workplace, even at nonprofit organizations. But as we use these new tools to spread awareness for our cause, we must consider the possible ethical implications for our clients, stakeholders, volunteers and the public.

Top Dos and Don’ts of Social Media Ethics

DON’T use the image of or information about a child (under 18) – even if they’re a volunteer – without at least verbal permission of a guardian. Better to be safe than sorry. For blogs, videos or detailed use, written permission is best.  Detailed explanation here:http://communications-media.lawyers.com/privacy-law/Photography-or-Video-Taping-Consent.html

DON’T ever, ever offer clients, volunteers, donors or supporters perks or extra benefits in exchange for participating in interviews or social networking.

DON’T use a client’s personal story without written permission and their express understanding of how you plan to use their information.

DO treat others as you would want to be treated. If a photo of you in an awkward position went up on Facebook, how would you feel?

DO be transparent, accountable and honest! One of the biggest criticism’s of the now-famous Kony 2012 video was its’ lack of transparency and accountability with both stakeholders and the public. *Source 3

DO protect confidential details of your nonprofit. Be transparent about your organization WITHOUT compromising confidential details such as employees personal information!

DO be ready to back up anything you post. Remember, people are listening. So if you post or tweet, be ready in case you get a call from the media five seconds later – even if you thought the subject was insignificant!

DO think before you click! Even if you delete a post or update, someone may still have seen an error or mistype. Be particularly careful if you have a personal account AND an organization account – an oops tweet on the wrong account about your night of partying could be a real problem.

DO remember to keep your personal social networking accounts separate from your organization’s account. Don’t “friend” clients or volunteers on your personal accounts. They don’t need to see pictures of what you did last weekend.

DON’T post anything you wouldn’t say (or show) to your grandmother. Even if you have a personal social networking account, remember: this is the internet. NOTHING is really private.

DO respect donors. Some donors wish to remain anonymous. While thanking donors on social media is a valuable tool, verify that each donor is comfortable with the acknowledgement. *Source 2

DO check your facts! Even if you’re reposting or retweeting, make sure it is accurate information! Don’t send your loyal followers to an event that isn’t actually happening! Assume everyone out there is fact-checking every single post you make.

DO acknowledge mistakes. If and when you do make an error on a social media platform, acknowledge and fix the mistake in a timely and open manner.

DON’T post negative comments about a competitor, colleagues, sports teams. . . . or really anyone. You never end up looking like the good guy. So be nice!

DON’T automatically delete a negative comment posted by someone else about your nonprofit! If something negative is being shared, analyze it for credibility. If it is credible, respond to it IMMEDIATELY in an honest, positive fashion to show that you care about what is said concerning your cause, and that some type of action is being taken to improve. *Source 1

DO give credit where credit is due. If you re-use a quote, story, photo or blog, mention where you got it – or even better, link back to it!

DON’T violate copyright laws. Be particularly mindful of this with photos and articles on Pinterest and even Facebook.

DO go with your gut. If your gut is telling you that something feels iffy, refer to your organization’s legal counsel for advice.

Sources:
*1 http://socialmediatoday.com/node/481533
*2 http://www.councilofnonprofits.org/resources/resources-topic/ethics-accountability
*3 http://www.nonprofitcommunity.com/index.php/2012/03/14/in-the-news-authors-speak-out-about-kony-2012/

 

    Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Retired, But Not Resting

Glenn sorts donated product in the Foodbank’s Volunteer Center / Photo by Bethany Prange

Retirement. For some, it means traveling the globe. For others, it means getting to some of those home projects you’ve been putting off for years.

For Glenn from Hazelwood, retirement means giving back after a career of public service.

When Glenn is in town, you can generally count on him coming out to volunteer at the Foodbank at least twice during the week. He’s always smiling, knows most of the Foodbank staff by name and he often has food to donate with him when he arrives.

He’s not fulfilling an obligation, it’s not mandated, he just enjoys the feeling he gets from helping feed hungry people and meeting other volunteers at the Foodbank.

We love having Glenn as a volunteer because you can tell that his heart is in what he’s doing every time he boxes up food to go out to area pantries.

He may be retired, but he’s certainly not resting.

Those in need certainly get a lot out of Glenn’s hard work, watch the video below to find out what volunteering means to him.


 Trish Jenner is a volunteer coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank