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Small Town Families Face Big Challenges

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Volunteers load a vehicle with groceries at a recent Food Fair in Louisiana, Mo. / Photo by Bethany Prange

 When you think of small towns, it’s easy to picture the Americana image portrayed in good country songs.

Just take a drive through a rural farming town, and you’ll likely see the quaint downtown square, the little white church, and the barber shop where everybody knows your name.

What you won’t see – at least as a casual passerby – is the struggle that many small town families face. Just like their urban counterparts, rural families face issues like hunger and poverty.

While the “country image” may add a veil of old-world charm to the strife faced by rural families, it doesn’t make living in poverty any easier for the men, women and children who deal with it every day.

In Louisiana, Mo., a rural town with a population of almost 3,800 people, the reality of hunger and poverty is evident.

Like many small towns, Louisiana is far from an urban metropolis. While this is good for those wanting to live the country life, it can make getting every day necessities a challenge. Rural families rely on the assets of their own communities to get by.

So when the only grocery store in Louisiana closed recently, it left many families wondering how they’d be able to buy food. The nearest store is now 20 miles away, and for many, the extra gas needed to get there is not in the budget.

If a store closes in an urban community rich with dozens of places to buy groceries, it doesn’t necessarily make a huge impact. But in a small town where many families don’t even have access to a reliable car, the closing of the only store can mean the difference between having food and going hungry.

Another issue presented by rural living is a lack of social service agencies. In St. Louis, families in need literally have hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and programs to help them get through tough times.

In a rural community though, there may be only one food pantry in the entire county.

While we can’t solve the problems faced by rural families, the St. Louis Area Foodbank wants to help as much as possible. When we learned of the grocery store closing in Louisiana, we knew we had to provide families in need with some extra help.

This Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, we delivered more than 32,000 pounds of food to Louisiana, Mo. With the help of our partner agency there, Heart to Heart Community Outreach, we gave that food to almost 150 families in need.

Despite the chill in the air, families in need lined up hours ahead of time, waiting for their turn. Students from Louisiana High School helped load cars with potatoes, meat, bread and baby food.

In just three hours, all that food went to rural families who desperately need it.

Foodbank staff are glad we could provide some relief to this small town, even if our efforts can’t solve all the problems of rural life.

We hope another grocery store will consider opening in Louisiana soon.

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

 

Feed the Hungry and Provide HOPE!

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              Volunteers help bag food at a recent mobile distribution in Warren County / Photo by Bethany Prange

As we celebrate another holiday season, many of us are consumed with thoughts of family gatherings and the scrumptious feast that lies ahead of us.

Visions of turkeys, hams, roasts, side dishes, casseroles, dinner rolls and pies dance through our heads and leave us fully anticipating days when we can stuff our bellies and drift off into a turkey-induced slumber.

But for some members of our community, the only vision that can be seen this holiday season, and every other day of the year, is that of an empty table, scarce food and very little reason for celebration.

Those who suffer from mental illness, have fallen on hard times or live in poverty are struggling to survive day-to-day. These individuals often find the holidays an added source of stress and anxiety.

Not only does daily life create challenges that seem insurmountable but getting through each day seems to take every ounce of energy they can muster.

As parents, they are faced with the challenge of providing not just enough food to feed their children, but finding access to nourishing food that will help their children live fuller, healthier lives.

Unfortunately, many of the families that participate in Crider Health Center’s programs and services struggle to meet life’s most basic necessities.  They struggle to put enough food on their tables to sustain their family.

This holiday season, Crider Health Center joined forces with the St. Louis Area Foodbank to provide nourishing, health-conscious food to 80 families in Warren County. We were honored to provide this service for families who needed an added dose of hope this holiday season.

Luckily, this partnership isn’t one that will fade when the holidays have come and gone – it is a gift that will keep giving and providing for Warren County families for years to come.

Without the generosity of the St. Louis Area Foodbank and their donors, many Crider families would not have the ability to put a healthy meal on their tables, much less an entire holiday feast.

But through this newly formed partnership, our Warren County families have a reason to celebrate, a reason to smile, and one more reason to have HOPE for the future.

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Pam Imboden is the Marketing and Development Manager at Crider Health Center

Going In On A Gift

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Have you ever “gone in on a gift” with someone?

When I was younger, my brothers and I used to “go in on gifts together” for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays and holidays.

By pooling our resources, we were able to give gifts that we may not otherwise have been able to provide on our own. A couple flowers on Mother’s Day, for example, became a dozen.

Giving a shared gift offers a unique sense of shared responsibility and shared excitement. It’s sort of like being in on a cool secret.

The benefits of going in on a gift can be applied to a charitable donation.

Many employers have a Matching Gifts Program, and they will “go in on your charitable gift” with you.

For example, you might be able to turn your $50 donation to St. Louis Area Foodbank into $100. That simple effort could double the impact of your gift from 200 meals to 400 meals!

Sometimes, even the hours you spend volunteering at the Foodbank can be matched with dollars by your employer.

St. Louis Area Foodbank recently launched a new matching gifts program that enables supporters to easily research if their companies have a matching gifts program.

To see if your company matches financial donations, please visit:http://www.stlfoodbank.org/Donate/MatchingGiftsProgram.aspx

To see if your company matches volunteer hours, please visit:

http://www.stlfoodbank.org/Donate/DonateTime/VolunteerMatchProgram.aspx

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

Pass The Turkey

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Students at MICDS pass turkeys across their campus to donate to the St. Louis Area Foodbank / Photo by Bethany Prange

 When these kids say “pass the turkey”, it is no joke!

For the ninth year in a row, students at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS) spent a chilly November morning passing frozen turkeys.

And no, they weren’t prepping for the world’s largest Thanksgiving dinner!

Since 2004, students and faculty at the Upper and Middle schools have been bringing in turkeys to donate to families in need.

 

Then, just before Thanksgiving, more than 600 students from the Upper School form a line stretching from one end of the campus to the other, passing donated frozen turkeys from student to student.

At the end of the line, St. Louis Area Foodbank staff load the poultry into our trucks. Before the end of the week, the Foodbank gives these turkeys out to our agencies who distribute the birds to families in need throughout the bi-state region.

This “Turkey Train” is not only great fun for the kids, but it lets them see firsthand the significant impact their donations can make.

See the Turkey Train first hand in this video from MICDS! http://youtu.be/sF2BIgUkO84

This year, MICDS students donated 7,751 pounds of turkey! Plus, the students in the Lower School donated more than 2,500 pounds of canned goods to go with the birds!

Altogether, the entire MICDS campus – more than 1,200 kids – donated 8,278 meals to families in need this holiday season!

The MICDS event represents one of the largest donations of food items to the St. Louis Food Bank at Thanksgiving.

“The Turkey Train was launched to provide a meaningful community service activity and experience that truly makes a difference for area families in need during the Thanksgiving holiday season,” says David Nowak, MICDS director of communications.

Watch great coverage of the Turkey Train from Fox 2 Now and Paul Schankman:

http://fox2now.com/2012/11/19/turkey-train-helps-feed-thousands-in-st-louis-area/

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

 

Every Child Deserves a Holiday Meal

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On Thanksgiving and Christmas, my parents always took my brother and me to my grandparents’ house for a big family meal with my aunts and cousins.

Looking back, I suppose I took those holiday gatherings for granted. I always knew that giant spread of food would be there.

I was fortunate in that every year, my family could provide a large turkey or ham, complete with the side dishes that were a tradition in our family – stuffing, sweet potatoes with the little marshmallows melted on top, and homemade mashed potatoes.

For so many children in the families served by the St. Louis Area Foodbank, there is no guaranteed holiday meal. These children cannot be sure there will be enough food in the house on a daily basis, and holidays are no exception.

As the holidays roll around, we here at the Foodbank do what we can to ensure that at the very least, families in need have a good meal. We distribute holiday chickens to as many families as possible, and try to provide the foods that help make a traditional holiday meal.

At this time of year, many of us wonder what we can do to help our fellow man. We welcome volunteers here at the Foodbank five days a week, and encourage anyone who wants to help to host a food drive.

If you’re looking for a way to feed families in need, here are some suggested items that are great to donate around the holidays. After all, every child deserves a holiday full of good memories.

• Boxed stuffing
• Macaroni and cheese
• Canned vegetables such as green beans, carrots and yams
• Pie fillings
• Pie crusts – nonrefrigerated
• Canned meats like chicken or tuna
• Canned gravy
• Boxed mashed potatoes
• Boxed scalloped potatoes
• Rice mixes
• Cookie mixes
• Bread
• Muffin mixes

If a family or individual wants to donate a fresh or frozen turkey or ham, or other perishable items, the Foodbank will accept them here at our facility at 70 Corporate Woods Drive in Bridgeton. From here, they will be distributed to families in need.

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

    Casey Milton is the product donations coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

 

One Day, Thousands of Scouts and a Huge Impact

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Food starts arriving at the St. Louis Area Foodbank during the 2011 Scouting for Food drive / Photo by Bethany Prange

 This Saturday, remember to put your bags of food donations on your porch for the boy scouts to collect during the 28th annual Scouting for Food drive with the Greater St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Scouting for Food started in 1985 in the St. Louis area. Since then, this important food drive has expanded to cities across the nation.

Last year in St. Louis city and county, Scouting for Food brought in nearly 750,000 pounds of food to the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Since it began in 1985, Scouting for Food has generated more than 24 million pounds of food for our Foodbank.

To get a sense of just how big an impact this drive makes, check out this great video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWcynM3ILaw&feature=share&list=UUfzj1ybtSFRhG4FUU7o4ebg

The food collected during Scouting for Food is distributed to our network of food pantries in Missouri, covering 14 counties. The food brought in by the scouts this Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, will start going out to our partner agencies just two days later on Monday, Nov. 19.

We truly appreciate every individual who makes the effort to put out donations. Without you, we couldn’t provide such a high quality of food assistance to our families in need.

If you forget to put the bags out for the Boy Scouts to collect or the scouts miss your residence, you may drop off your donations at any St. Louis-area Regions Bank location.  Find your nearest Regions Bank location here:http://www.stlbsa.org/programs/sff/Pages/Regions-Bank-Locations.aspx

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

 

Party with a Purpose – Taste of the NFL

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St. Louis Rams General Manager Les Snead signs an autograph for a young fan / Photo by Dave Preston

  When Kevin Demoff, executive vice president of football operations for the St. Louis Rams, announced they would be hiring Les Snead as the team’s general manager, he said, “…We think with him (Snead) and Jeff (Fisher) running our football operations, we have a chance for sustained success.”*

After the 10th annual Taste of the NFL event on Monday night, I’d be willing to bet that representatives from the St. Louis Area Foodbank and the St. Louis Sports Commissionhave similar feelings.

If Snead decides to continue chairing the St. Louis Taste of the NFL, as he did this year for the first time, this event has a strong chance for sustained success, just like the Rams.

Taste of the NFL organizers could not have planned a better set of circumstances. On Sunday, the Rams played NFC West Division leaders, the San Francisco 49ers. The game ended dramatically with rookie kicker Greg Zuerlien booting a 54-yard field goal to give the Rams a 16 – 13 win in overtime.

The victory pushed the Rams to 4-0-1 within the division.  They’ve already more than doubled their win total from a year ago.

The next night at the Taste of the NFL, more than 20 Rams players showed up at the Foodbank to sign autographs, mingle with guests and sample food from St. Louis area restaurants.  When it was time to introduce them to the crowd from the stage, Snead had a funny story or special memory about each player.

Joined by his wife, former NFL Network reporter Kara Henderson Snead, the couple showed good chemistry while reliving draft day stories with some of the team’s rookies and enjoying a laugh about locker room pranks pulled off by some of the veteran players.

Veteran defensive end Chris Long seemed to have involvement in the majority of the pranks.  Despite Sneads’ story-telling, Long claims to have “no idea” how 3,000 live crickets and more than 50,000 packing peanuts ended up in teammate James Laurinaitis’ vehicle after a long day of practicing.

All of this made for a great evening for those in attendance and a successful fundraiser for the St. Louis Sports Commission and the Foodbank.

In his short time with the team, Snead has earned the respect of the Rams’ players.  On Monday, that respect was very evident by the player turnout to support their general manager in his first year as event captain.

With the money raised that night, the Foodbank will be able to provide more than 140,000 meals for hungry families throughout the bi-state region.

When a family gathers around their kitchen table tonight to eat a meal prepared with food they received from the St. Louis Area Foodbank, they can thank Rams players and personnel like Cortland Finnegan, Robert Quinn and of course, Les Snead for helping to make the Taste of the NFL a resounding success – one that will hopefully be sustained for years to come.

CLICK HERE TO SEE PICTURES FROM THE NIGHT

* = Quote was orginally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Ryan Farmer

 

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

 

 

It’s Like The Human Fund, Only Real

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Have you seen that one Seinfeld where George Costanza tells everyone he made a holiday donation in their name to The Human Fund?

If you haven’t seen it, check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJvbZZWt9g4

Of course, the deceitful trick pulled by Costanza comes back to haunt him later in the episode when his boss, Mr. Krugar, finds out The Human Fund doesn’t exist.

For those of you familiar with that infamous “Festivus” episode, I’m sure you know it’s good for some laughs.

But in reality, there are some great ways to make holiday honor donations to very worthy – and very real -causes.

This year, if you decide to forgo buying your dad yet another Christmas tie, or buying your business partner his umpteenth set of golf balls, consider making a charitable donation in their honor.

The feel-good factor of making a donation to hunger relief in our region can be far more valuable than even the coolest golf accessories.

Here’s how it works:

• In lieu of gifts, simply make a tax-deductible donation to St. Louis Area Foodbank in the name of those you wish to honor.

• For a minimum gift of $15 per letter, we will mail an acknowledgement of your gift to your list of designated honorees.

• The letter will be sent on Foodbank holiday stationary, personalized to include your company’s name and signed by our CEO.

In many professions — advertising, law, wealth management and healthcare to name just a few — a list of clients and business associates can exceed 50 to 100 names.

So how do you wish everyone a happy holiday? Sometimes, this massive gift giving can be labor-intensive and very exhausting.

Still, acknowledging clients, colleagues, vendors and associates around the holidays has become a best practice in business. It’s a way to build and strengthen relationships.

But who needs another paperweight or gift basket of jellies?

Our Holiday Honor Letter Program can be an effective solution to the gift-giving dilemma. It has four main benefits:

1. This type of gift, as opposed to others, is tax-deductible.
2. For the busy professional, this one-stop shop saves a remarkable amount of time.
3. This gift generates good public relations.
4. Lastly, your charitable donation makes a positive difference in the community. Every dollar donated yields four meals for people in need of food assistance.

Kathy Braswell with Cataract & Eye Disease Specialists Inc. summed up it perfectly:

“Every holiday season most offices receive lots of homemade goodie baskets or plants. Instead of doing the same, we decided several years ago that holiday honor letters are a wonderful way to show appreciation for the referrals we receive, while doing something good for the community.”

So, if you are looking for a way to acknowledge your professional and personal networks this upcoming holiday season, please contact Patrick Delhougne and we can start working on your gift today!

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

 

 

SNAP: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

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Imagine you’ve worked a long day at the office, dealing with all the deadlines and responsibilities that come with a full-time job.  And now, on top of your normal worries and obligations, you go home to find an empty refrigerator and cupboard. You have no idea what to feed your family.

For many of us, this reality simply means we need to make a trip to the store.

Unfortunately, running to the store is not an option for many of the clients served by the St. Louis Area Foodbank. By the middle of the month, they no longer have enough money left to buy food.

So for these individuals, the choices are limited. They can borrow food from friends or visit a food pantry. But sometimes the only available choice is to simply go without.

As the Foodbank’s SNAP Outreach Coordinator, I have the opportunity to meet many hard-working Americans who are struggling to put food on the table. For the clients I meet, the basic costs of living are far higher than the income they earn.

That’s why the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is so important.

According to USDA, “many SNAP recipients are currently employed but they still need additional assistance so that they can put nutritious food on the table for their families. More than 29 percent of SNAP households had earnings in 2009 and 40 percent of all SNAP participants lived in a household with earnings.”

What is SNAP?

SNAP is the program formerly known as food stamps. It is this federal program that helps low-income individuals and families purchase healthy food.

SNAP benefits are placed on a plastic card (LINK in Illinois; EBT in Missouri) each month. The card works much like a debit card and can be used at grocery stores, convenience stores, farmers markets and co-ops.

Who is Eligible?

SNAP eligibility rules can be complex, but the most important factors to determine eligibility and amount available are the income and expenses of the household. The program also considers the number of people who live in the household and buy and prepare food together.

Importance and Impact

SNAP has been shown to reduce childhood food insecurity and the negative impact on cognitive and academic development as children grow older.  Also, it allows families to transition to self-sufficiency and financial stability. Most participants leave the program within nine months. The dollar amount of SNAP benefits decreases 24 to 36 cents for every dollar earned by the individual.

SNAP not only allows families to purchase much-needed healthy food, but it also makes a positive impact on the local economy. Every dollar in SNAP benefits spent generates an additional $1.79 in local economic activity, helping create revenue for local food retailers and farms.  A 5 percent increase in SNAP participate would generate $1.8 billion in new economic activity nationwide.

Benefits Unclaimed

Many who are eligible for SNAP benefits do not take advantage of the program. Sometimes they are too proud to accept help. In other cases, people in need do not have proper access to the application process. Some families in need may not even know they are eligible.

Each year, there are about $65 million benefits for low-income families that go unclaimed.

These resources could be used to provide good assistance for families who desperately need it. That’s why spreading awareness about SNAP facts is so important.

According to USDA research, 96 percent of Americans are aware of SNAP/food stamps, but only 43 percent of those who do not participate actually know they are eligible.

St. Louis Area Foodbank SNAP Outreach Efforts

The St. Louis Area Foodbank makes a conscious effort to educate and provide assistance to our clients. Every week, I visit our partner agencies – soup kitchens, shelters and food pantries – and provide application assistance to our clients.
I assist them with SNAP applications, answer questions, and guide them through the entire process from application submission to case management with their local Department of Human Services office.

Some clients I have assisted did not understand the program or even realize they were eligible.  It is rewarding to help a family in need get food assistance through SNAP.

SNAP Outreach allows individuals and families the ability to continue to live productive and healthy lives. I am honored to be able to serve some of the most vulnerable individuals in the community.

Sources:
 2005-2006 “What We Eat in America” study
 The Food Assistance National Input-Output Multiplier (FANIOM) Model and Stimulus Effects of SNAP
http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR103/ 
 USDA Food and Nutrition Service http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap 
 Feeding America
http://www.feedingamerica.org 
 Food Stamp as Medicine: A New Perspective on Children’s Health
 USDA FNS Nutrition Assistance Program Report Series – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Report No. SNAP-10-CHAR
 The Benefits of Increasing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Program Participation in your State
 Making America Stronger: A Profile of the Food Stamp Program
http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/menu/Published/snap/FILES/Other/FSPProfile.pdf 
 FACT vs. Fiction: USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
http://blogs.usda.gov/2011/06/24/fact-vs-fiction-usda%E2%80%99s-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/

 

Andrea-Hale-blog

 

Andrea Hale is the SNAP outreach coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank