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Grocery Shopping For Good

Schnucks EScripts

A Schnucks’ cashier scans a customer’s eScrip card / Photo by Bethany Prange

No time to help your local food bank fight hunger?

We understand.

Life is crazy and often too hectic to leave much time for do-goodery.

But lucky for us, there is a cool way you can help just by doing something you already do!

We’ve told you before about the Schnucks eScrip card. It’s that nifty little card that designates 3 percent of your grocery bill to the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Every time you shop for groceries and hand your eScrip card to the cashier at checkout at Schnucks, you are making a free donation to fight hunger in the bi-state region.

If you don’t already have an eScrip card, you can get one from the St. Louis Area Foodbank or at your neighborhood Schnucks Courtesy Counter. It’s totally free!

It’s a simple process to activate the card and designate the Foodbank as your charity of choice.  Then, all you have to do is give the card or key fob to the cashier when you shop.

And now, using the eScrip card is even better. From Sept.1 through Oct. 31, use your eScrip card to participate in the Schnucks eScrip Back-To-School Contest.

This year, nonprofits with the highest increase of shoppers using their eScrip cards compared to last year will get prizes!  The first prize is $500 for the nonprofit with the highest increase of eScrip users!

Plus, one Schnucks shopper from that nonprofit’s group will get a $50 Schnucks gift card for their own use!

So get your grocery shopping done, and be sure to use your eScrip card at the checkout! You could help the St. Louis Area Foodbank win $500 AND get the chance for some free groceries for yourself!

JaneC

Jane Corpora is a grantwriter at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

 

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

Surviving on $35

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Canned tuna fills the shelves at a local Save-A-Lot store / Photo by Bethany Prange

Can you feed yourself for $35 a week?

When I heard that Anytime Fitness was sponsoring the “Survive on 35” challenge, I was intrigued.

The goal was to encourage people to eat healthy on a budget, and to bring awareness to hunger issues.

They chose $35 because that is the average amount a person receives through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

I knew that eating on $35 a week would be tough, but I was confident I could do it. I had an even smaller budget when I was in college, living on my own and making a fraction of my current income.

I also grew up in a large family where we purchased most of our food from discount grocers. My parents taught me how to be a thrifty shopper.

By the end of the challenge, I managed to just stay under my budget and I did come up with some tasty, nutritious meals. For me, this was a seven-day experiment that taught me a few lessons in frugal eating.

But for others, this is an everyday reality. This challenge truly opened my eyes to why so many struggle each day to provide food for their families.

• You can live on $35/week, but you’ll need transportation. To stretch my grocery budget, I drove past my usual grocery stories to shop at Walmart. Driving a few extra minutes was easy with a car, but if I didn’t have a means of transportation, I don’t know if I could have afforded to eat three meals a day.

• Eating out is a luxury you can’t afford when you’re on a strict budget. When you break down $35 per week it comes to just around $1.66 per meal. This means you have to plan out all your meals. Want to meet up with a friend for lunch? Forget it – unless you want to go hungry the rest of the week.

• It’s often easier and cheaper to eat unhealthy meals than it is to make highly nutritious, healthy meals. Ramen noodle cups were a staple of my lunch diet six years ago. This time around, sticking to a budget was much more difficult when I couldn’t offset it with 25 cent meals.

• Free food becomes a welcome treat. I’m extremely fortunate to work for a company that provides bread and bakery items to its employees. Some days I walk right past the food without glancing at it. When you’re on such a tight budget, you accept food whenever and wherever it’s available.

• You sacrifice convenience when you’re on a budget. I cooked more during this week than I normally do during a month. If I were working multiple jobs to support a family, it would be difficult to find time to prepare meals.

The goal of this challenge was to demonstrate ways to eat healthy on a tight budget. But more importantly, I think it also highlighted the tough decisions people have to make every day.

Yes, you can eat for $35 a week but you also need other resources such as transportation, basic cooking skills and time.

So if you ever come across a food drive for the St. Louis Area Foodbank and wonder if your donation of a few canned goods or $5 is going to make a difference, you can rest assured it will!

Patricia Lee

 

Patricia Lee is social media manager at Panera Bread and is a St. Louis Area Foodbank Social Media Avenger

On The Road…Again

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Denise Daugherty starts her day by loading product onto her truck / Photo by Bethany Prange

Denise Daugherty is a hard-working woman.

As the only woman on the otherwise all-male crew of truck drivers at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, her mornings start with a healthy dose of hot weather and heavy lifting.

Before she can settle into her air-conditioned truck, Denise must first prep and load hundreds of pounds of food.  She will later deliver that food to food pantries throughout Missouri who will make sure it gets into the hands of those who need it most.

On July 6, a particularly steamy day in Missouri, I rode along with Denise as she made her deliveries.  From the very first stop at First Assemblies of God food pantry in St. Clair, Mo., it was clear that Denise is a woman on a mission.

Denise greeted the volunteers at the pantry with friendly conversation before she jumped up to unload the food. Despite the sweltering heat, she worked quickly to help move the bread, meat and other food into the pantry. The volunteers were more than grateful for both the delivery, and Denise’s help.

As she drove along to the next stop – Meramec Community Mission in Sullivan, Mo. – Denise talked about how important her work is. She also acknowledged that since federal commodities have declined, so has the amount of food she is given to deliver to agencies.

“It just isn’t enough to feed them,” Denise worries.

When asked what she likes most about her job, Denise quickly says several things – helping people in need, working with Foodbank staff, and driving her truck.

Without Denise and the rest of the Foodbank drivers, many of our partner agencies would have limited access to the food they need.  Today, more than 60 percent of our agencies have their food delivered while the rest choose to come to the Foodbank to pick it up themselves. In addition, the Foodbank drivers often pick up food donations from stores like Walmart and Save-A-Lot.

In just one day, Denise managed to not just deliver food to families in need, but also bring more food to the Foodbank to be distributed later.

With a remarkable combination of hard work and positive attitude, Denise and her fellow drivers make the work we do here possible.

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

 

Bringing The Market To The People

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Volunteers at Matthew 25 Ecumenical Food Pantry bag up fresh cabbage during a recent St. Louis Area Foodbank Mobile Market / Photo by Bethany Prange

It’s a sunny Monday in Carlyle, Ill., and the cars have been lining up since 6 a.m.

Five hours later, the line of cars stretches halfway through this small town in Clinton County as families patiently wait for the food they need.

Today is mobile market day at Matthew 25 Ecumenical Food Pantry, a day when families struggling with hunger can receive fresh produce, dairy and bakery via a special delivery from the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

On the third Monday of every month, a Foodbank truck arrives at the pantry, filled with fresh food that must immediately go out to those who need it.

Soliciting highly-nutritious fresh food means the Foodbank constantly faces the possibility of expiration. For instance, if we bring in a truckload of fresh tomatoes that are already very ripe, we must distribute those tomatoes to families in need immediately to make sure they get eaten.

That’s where mobile markets come in. Items that are close to expiration – or even just fresh items we have an abundance of – are delivered in bulk to one of our 500 partner agencies. Agency volunteers then immediately give the food out to families in need.

On Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, Matthew 25 Ecumenical Food Pantry and the people of Carlyle were ready and willing to take their 14,910 pounds of fresh produce.

More than 20 volunteers spent several hours in the church parking lot, sorting and re-bagging the veggies before handing it out to the families waiting in the line of cars.

The Foodbank truck brought cabbage, carrots, red bell peppers, veggie dip, cucumbers, zucchini, red potatoes, white potatoes and sweet potatoes.  A regular veggie smorgasbord!

“It’s usually always vegetables, fruit, bakery and dairy,” says David Huene, director of Matthew 25 Ecumenical Food Pantry. “We don’t get a lot of fresh produce other than the mobile market.”

Pantry volunteers spread word about the mobile market by telling the 220 families who visit the pantry’s normal distribution day on the first Wednesday of the month.

The need is certainly evident. On Aug. 20, Huene counted 250 families in line at the mobile market.

“If it wasn’t for the food pantry, we wouldn’t have made it,” says one client named Sherry. “My husband got hurt and couldn’t work. They’ve been so good to us.”

Sherry spent her Monday volunteering at the mobile market, anxious to help others get the food they need. As she handed out bags of carrots to families waiting in line, Sherry offered a kind word to each driver who passed.

“I get food for other families with kids,” Sherry says. “They’re so grateful to have anything to feed their kids.”

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

 

Salvation In Small Spaces

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Pastor Ron Rall & Carolyn Stortz of Orphan Grain Train at the Timothy Lutheran Church Food Pantry / Photo by Bethany Prange

Sometimes salvation can be found in the smallest of spaces.

Down a modest stairwell, there is a room small enough to be a closet. It’s walls are lined with shelves of food. Here, South City families in need find hope for another day. They find the food they need to survive.

Though the room is small, and the shelves are scarcely full, this space is making a big impact on the community.

From the basement of Timothy Lutheran Church on Fyler Avenue, volunteers run a small food pantry, handing out food to 40 to 80 families a month.

Most of the food comes – if indirectly – from the St. Louis Area Foodbank.  The Foodbank distributes boxes of food to an agency called Orphan Grain Train, an international Christian humanitarian organization.

Since 2009, the Missouri-Illinois Branch of the Orphan Grain Train has been soliciting food from the St. Louis Area Foodbank and distributing it to small food pantries like Timothy Lutheran Church.

Due to a lack of funds, storage space or volunteers, these pantries are too small to become independent agencies of the Foodbank. Yet they still struggle to bring in enough donations to feed their people in need.

That’s where Orphan Grain Train comes in.

“They don’t have the resources, but most are located in a position in the city that is in extreme need,” says Carolyn Stortz of Orphan Grain Train.

Orphan Grain Train distributes food to pantries at these St. Louis churches and agencies:

 

• Timothy Lutheran Church
• Great Commission Lutheran Church
• Lutheran Community Center
• Christian Friends of New Americans
• St. John’s Lutheran Church
• Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard

The whole process relies heavily on volunteers. Volunteers from Orphan Grain Train order and pick up the food from the Foodbank. They unload the truck at their warehouse, pack frozen food into freezers, and manage the allocation to the food pantries.

Food pantry volunteers pick up food from Orphan Grain Train and take it back to their pantries where they distribute to the hungry families and individuals they serve.

Once a month, the Foodbank hosts a mobile market at Orphan Grain Train, distributing fresh produce and other perishable items. This program gives the smaller pantries a chance to provide healthier fresh food.

Through these pantries, Orphan Grain Train provides food to more than 10,000 individuals per quarter.

Many of the individuals served by these small food pantries are legal immigrants to the United States. Timothy Lutheran Church alone serves a congregation of individuals from at least a dozen different nationalities.

“Immigrants who have recently arrived sometimes come with only the clothes on their backs,” Stortz says.

Though Timothy Lutheran Church has been working with Orphan Grain Train for about two years, they only recently became an official partner.

“We opened our pantry when there was a downturn in the economy,” says Pastor Ronald Rall of Timothy Lutheran Church. “We had lots of people out of work.”

Thanks to congregation donations and the help from Orphan Grain Train, they’ll be able to continue serving families in need.

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

The Life Of Your Food – How To Know If It’s Still Good

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Fresh produce on display / Photo by Bethany Prange

 There it is, staring at me from the dim light of my refrigerator – a half-used jar of spaghetti sauce.

Once again, I faced an all too familiar question – is it still good?

As my mind spins with every horror story I’ve ever heard about food poisoning, I ponder whether or not it is safe to pour on my pasta.

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Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in my household. I spend more time than I care to admit wondering whether food in my pantry and refrigerator is still edible.

I’m notorious for buying healthy items I think I’ll eat – organic macaroni and cheese comes to mind – and then letting the food expire in the pantry.

When I inevitably run across that box of macaroni, or that half-used jar of spaghetti sauce, I’m never really sure what to do. I’m conflicted by my distaste for wasting food and my desire to avoid food-borne illness.

Here at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, we face that same challenge every day. But instead of wondering about just one jar of spaghetti sauce, we’re dealing with millions of pounds of food a year.

Thankfully, we have some rules to guide us. As a starting point, we use The Food Keeper – A Consumer Guide to Food Quality & Safe Handling, a publication of the Food Marketing Institute and the Cornell University Institute of Food Science.

I really should post this handy little guide on my own refrigerator!

The Food Keeper provides a detailed list of every food imaginable, with guidelines for how long each food will stay good fresh, refrigerated and frozen. It also offers some tips and advice I never even considered.

Here’s a few highlights:

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• Set your refrigerator to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. And don’t overload it – air must circulate freely to cool all food evenly.

• Foods frozen at their peak quality will taste better than foods frozen near the end of their useful life. Quickly freeze items you don’t plan to use in the next two days.

• Leave meat, poultry and seafood in the original store packaging before using.Repeated handling means the chance for more bacteria.

• Butter stays good for one to three months in the refrigerator while margarine is good for six months in the fridge.

• Don’t defrost foods on the kitchen counter! Defrost one of three ways – in the refrigerator, in a sealed package in cold water, and in the microwave!

• Foods thawed in the fridge can be refrozen without cooking! But foods defrosted in cold water or in the microwave must be cooked immediately.

• Most shellfish, fish and poultry is only good for one to two days in the refrigerator. It lasts much longer in the freezer.

• Always put cooked food on a clean plate that did not previously hold the raw foods! This is a big reminder for grilling season!

• Many shelf-stable items, such as canned vegetables, spaghetti sauce and dry pasta, are good unopened for two years! Just watch for severe dents, cracked jars or leaking items and get rid of those immediately.

• The USDA has a meat and poultry hotline, 1-800-535-4555, you can call 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every week day to find out more about the safe handling, cooking and storage of food!

• An expired date doesn’t necessarily mean the food needs to be discarded – BUT be sure to learn more before making that decision.

1. “Sell-by” means you should buy the product before that date.

2. “Best If Used By or Before” is a recommendation for best flavor – it is not a purchase or safety date.

3. “Use By” is the last date recommended for use of the produce at its peak quality.

To see a complete copy of The Food Keeper, visithttp://www.stlfoodbank.org/Agency_Access.aspx and click on Food Life Extension List.

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

 

Back To School Savings

Corporate Photo, little girl working at and arts and crafts table.

Photo courtesy of Feeding America

Ah, August. That last bittersweet month of summer.

As a kid, I remember feeling both a sense of excitement and dread as the summer drew to a close. I was torn.

There would be no more weekday pool parties and playing tag after dark with the neighbor kids.  Homework and early bedtimes were definitely a bummer.

But the start of the new school year also meant I’d get to see my school friends every day. Plus, before the first day, I’d get to go shopping with my mom for school supplies.

I loved picking out new folders, a backpack and brand new pencils and pens. Since I’d inevitably grown since the last day of school, I also got to pick out cool new clothes and shoes.

Looking back, I realize now just how lucky I was that my parents could afford to buy us the things we needed to start the school year off right.

Many of the clients served by the St. Louis Area Foodbank don’t have that luxury. When you’re struggling just to pay the bills and can barely afford food, it’s overwhelming to think about all the things your child will need for school.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to save on those school supplies and new clothes. Many stores run major sales prior to the start of the school year.

But if retail shopping is still out of budget, here are a few other suggestions for saving money on back to school items:

1. Consider secondhand items. Visit Craigslist, Ebay, local thrift stores and even yard sales to find good deals on gently-used items. With a little patience, you can find everything from clothing and backpacks and to computer desks and notebooks.

2. Buy in bulk. If you have multiple children, or just need a bunch of a particular item, you can save by buying large quantities both at online retailers and at stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. These places can save you money on everything from lunchbox snacks to pencils.

3. Swap with other parents. Organize a group of parents from your community and host a school-supply and clothing swap. Your child may be tired of the Spiderman backpack, but it’s brand new to your neighbor’s son!

4. Take advantage of discounts. Many stores and online retailers will offer special student discounts on big-ticket items like laptops or dorm furniture. If you’re a veteran or a member of your local Farm Bureau or AARP, remember to ask each store if they offer those discounts. Sometimes it can pay big just to ask!

5. Repurpose and reuse! Remember those half-used notebooks in the garage left over from your high school math class? Rip out the used pages and use a new picture to cover up that 90s grunge band on the front. Leave no drawer unturned – you may find enough miscellaneous crayons to fill a whole box! (And hey, remember the gazillion pens and pencils you got from local businesses advertising at your neighborhood picnic? Fish those out!)

6. Go DIY. Now, sewing your child’s clothing may not be economical or good for your sanity, but there are lots of school items you can make yourself out of household items. How about turning that old makeup bag into a pencil pouch?

7. Go for the plain Jane. Save by buying the plain version of everything from notebooks to backpacks – they’ll be cheaper than the ones with the licensed cartoon characters. Fancy them up yourself with stickers, keychains and photos you print at home!

8. Use office supply store rewards and rebates. If you shop regularly for your work supplies at store like OfficeMax or Staples, you may have accumulated some major rewards points. Now is the time to cash those in for supplies for the kiddos! Plus, many stores offer rebates and gift certificates for back-to-school items – just sign up for the email alerts!

9. Wait it out. If your child can make it through the first month or two of school with last year’s backpack, you can score a major deal on a new one just by waiting for school supplies to go on clearance.

Sources:

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2012/07/31/6-ways-to-save-on-back-to-school-supplies-and-clothes
http://frugalliving.about.com/od/bargainshopping/tp/Save_Money_on_School_Supplies.htm

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

Fighting Hunger With Laughter

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Mike Birbiglia headlines “Hunger Is No Laughing Matter” at The Pageant on August 11, 2012

Comedy and hunger don’t often appear in the same sentence.  For those struggling to put food on their plates, laughter is not often heard in their homes.

However, this Saturday night at The Pageant in the University City Loop, laughter will go a long way toward helping those in need throughout the bi-state region.

The laughs will be coming from those in attendance at the first ever “Hunger Is No Laughing Matter” event benefiting the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

The event boasts two world-class comedians – Mike Birbiglia and Greg Warren.

Mike hasn’t performed at the Pageant since September of 2009 and has a movie, “Sleepwalk With Me,” coming out soon. Greg has appeared on numerous late-night talk shows and always draws a crowd when he’s back in his hometown of St. Louis.

The hope is that the event will draw not only those who already support the Foodbank in our fight against hunger, but also those who may not be familiar with how we provide food and personal care items to more than 500 area food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.

If there is any hope of one day eradicating hunger in our community, we’ll need all the help we can muster.  With that in mind, we’ve tried to put together a fun night for everyone in attendance.

Guests are encouraged to arrive early to have their picture taken in a special “faux-to booth” commemorating the event. Throughout the night, patrons can purchase raffle tickets for the chance to win great prizes from Live Nation, the St. Louis Rams, Blue Element Salon and Pin-Up Bowl.

There will also be an opportunity for one lucky patron to win a $250 gift card from Shop ‘n Save for correctly guessing how many meals the Foodbank can provide with a shopping cart full of food.  Mike Birbiglia will be selling and signing copies of his CD and book after the show in Suite 100 with proceeds going to the Foodbank.  Everyone in attendance will receive a special treat from Mom’s Originals.

 

The Foodbank hopes to raise at least $5,000 from raffle tickets and donations on the night of the event.  With that amount, the Foodbank can provide an additional 20,000 meals for hungry families throughout the region.

If you already have tickets for the event, thank you.  If you don’t have tickets, I’d encourage you to get some.  There’s no black tie required, the tickets are not expensive, there will be plenty of things going on and best of all, you get to laugh at two phenomenal comedians while helping your neighbors in need.

Laughing helps make a lot of things better and this Saturday, it will help make things a whole lot better for hungry families served by the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

For more information, including a link to purchase tickets, please click here.

Ryan Farmer

 

 

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

Through Her Own Loss & Struggle, She Helps Others Get By

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Sandra Cain works to help others despite being in need herself / Photo by Bethany Prange

Sandra lost her mother and her husband in the span of just a few years.

While driving with a friend through the terrible snow storm of 1982, Sandra’s mother went missing. For a month, dozens of search parties turned up empty. Finally, a truck driver discovered her mother’s car accident in a frozen creek bed.

Just three years later, Sandra’s husband, David Cain, succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver. He had been sick with the disease for several years, leaving Sandra to serve as his caretaker.

When her husband died, Sandra did her best to survive on his veteran benefits. She worked when she could, day-sitting with elderly citizens who were unable to care for themselves.

Before his death, Sandra and David had moved her mother’s trailer to a small piece of rural property on the outskirts of Washington County.

Sandra still lives in the 1974 single-wide. But as the years have passed, the trailer has needed upkeep that she could not afford. Now, she lives in only the portion of the trailer that is safe to occupy.

Sandra worked most of her life, and had managed a women’s clothing store in Centralia for more than a decade. But in later years, a back injury prevented her from finding full-time employment.

When she became eligible, Sandra filed for social security. But like many in her age group, she had little money left over for food. In 1990, she began going to the food pantry in her hometown of Centralia, Ill.

“I couldn’t make ends meet,” she says. “I don’t go all the time – only when I’m really low on money.”

Sandra receives food stamps, but sometimes even those aren’t enough to stretch her meager budget.

In January, she was relieved when her monthly social security payment increased from $694 to $719. But then in March, her food stamp allotment when down from $51 to $40, negating the increase.

“Everything else is going up,” Sandra says. “Food stamps are something that helps feed you to keep you alive.”

Sandra is fortunate to have a car, since her rural address would make it impossible for her to receive food assistance from the Irvington Food Pantry and other resources without transportation.

She admits though, she wouldn’t have the car, or much else, without help from her daughter, Tina, and the kindness of others in the community.

“A friend bought me a used car because he says I’m his chauffer and drive him everywhere,” she says with a smile.

When that car quit running, a close friend of her daughter’s donated her family’s extra car to Sandra.

“She said ‘Centralia’s Taxi Service has to have a car,’” Sandra says.

Sandra helps care for sick friends and provides friends and neighbors with rides to the doctor, the food pantry and government offices to pick up food stamps.

Sandra helps one neighbor who lives in a house with no heat or electricity. He carries in his water and cooks on a small gas stove, often with a flashlight.

Sandra says her friend rides a bicycle and doesn’t get food stamps because the nearest office is in Carlyle and he can’t get there.

“I’ve got it hard, but he has it harder,” Sandra says. “There’s so many more out there worse off than me.”

This story was told to St. Louis Area Foodbank Communications Coordinator Bethany Prange in March 2012. Some circumstances may have changed.

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