Most of us are looking for at least two things in a volunteer experience.
The ability to make a positive, tangible impact on our community
The chance to do something personally inspiring, yet relevant to a good cause
This spring, the St. Louis Area Foodbank has a volunteer opportunity that meets both of those criteria.
By joining the volunteer crew of the national Hunger in America study, you’ll be on the front lines of hunger, an issue that plagues tens of thousands of individuals in our community.
Hunger study volunteers will visit food pantries in Missouri and Illinois, conducting interviews with the individuals who actually face hunger on a regular basis.
The Hunger in America study is conducted May 1 – August 30, 2013. Nationally, 70,000 food pantry clients will be scientifically surveyed and interviewed. The information gathered in this effort will raise awareness, nationally and locally, about the reality of hunger in our region.
Even more, this valuable data is used:
To promote local and national legislation that helps our most vulnerable neighbors
To raise private and public funds to help address hunger in our region
To provide the public with the hard facts about hunger and poverty
By agreeing to participate in this important volunteer mission, you’ll learn firsthand about hunger and the effect it has on families in our region.
Volunteers must meet these requirements:
Attend a training session – the first one is April 27
Be at least 18 years old
Have reliable transportation
Have basic technology skills
Be available for five to eight pantry visits during the 18-week data collection period
Be able to effectively communicate with diverse populations
Be able to exercise discretion and show sensitivity toward clients
Released in 1981 and directed by Louis Malle, My Dinner with Andre showcases an elaborate conversation between playwright Wallace Shawn and theater director Andre Gregory.
In fact, that’s the whole movie – conversations and food.
Reflecting on the film in 1999, Roger Ebert wrote, “It should be unwatchable, and yet those who love it return time and again, enchanted.”
There could be a thousand different interpretations of this film. What does it mean? What is it about? There is no easy answer.
So, the other day when I was thinking about My Dinner with Andre, it dawned on me that when people come together, food is often at the center.
This isn’t news. Most people know that. We all understand the significance of mealtime gatherings.
Food is more than nutrition. It acts as an adhesive. Around food, people tell stories and share their experiences.
In short, food is where we connect with one another.
It brings to mind another cinematic moment– Woody Allen and Diane Keaton joyfully preparing lobsters in the kitchen during the 1977 film Annie Hall.
What is Annie Hall without those lobsters?
What is My Dinner with Andre without that dinner?
With your support, the St. Louis Area Foodbank attempts to put food on every table in the community. It may not be lobster or a four-course dinner, but we prioritize the acquisition of nutritious product that will help our neighbors in need.
I like to think that when we help put food on the table, we’re helping these families create their own movie moments.
Patrick Delhougne is the development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
As we celebrate National Nutrition Month, we all hope to find ways to eat healthier.
However, it is a common misconception that eating healthy is hard to do when you’re on a budget. In reality, with a little preparation and a few shopping tips, you can eat well without breaking the bank.
Seasons of Savings
The easiest way to save money and purchase a wide variety of healthy food is to buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Farmers grow different types of produce throughout the year. When a fruit or vegetable is in its growing season, it is less expensive for the farmer and the market, so those savings get passed along to you.
You can always find out what produce is in season by shopping at your local farmers market, asking the produce staff at your grocery store or with our “What’s in Season?” produce guide.
Most grocery stores offer weekly sales on fruits and vegetables that are in season. This is because the store received a large shipment of a particular produce item, or because that fruit or vegetable is at the end of its season so the store needs to make room for new items. Before you shop, check your store’s weekly ads online or in the local newspaper.
Prep at Home
Another way to save is to buy produce whole and in bulk, and to do some of the prep work at home. At the store, you pay extra to buy salad already washed, chopped and in a bag. Fruit that is pre-cut or in a fruit salad is even more expensive. Instead, buy vegetables, fruit and a head of lettuce and do the prep yourself. This not only allows you to save money, but also gives you the chance to know exactly what you are eating. Prepping your own salads allows you to add variety by mixing different ingredients.
Save in the Freezer Section
But fresh fruits and veggies aren’t your only option. The freezer section in the grocery store has become a great place to find healthy, budget-friendly food choices. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a much better option than their canned counterparts. Typically, frozen veggies and fruits do not have the added ingredients and can usually be purchased in larger packages. They are also cost-effective and have a long shelf life.
Some fruits and vegetables are even better frozen than fresh because they are frozen at their peak nutritional stage.
Other great frozen options include individually-packed servings of chicken, fish and seafood. These allow for easy meal preparation without having to defrost and cook a whole package.
Although pre-packed, microwaveable or “just add water” meals might be appealing when it comes to cost, they are not the best option when it comes to nutrition. It may take a little more time to prepare a similar meal using fresh ingredients, but your body will thank you for it.
Eating a variety of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats is a great way to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to work the way it should. With a little bit of planning, buying nutritious foods on a budget can be easy. It is also a great way to live well and help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Kelly Hall, RD, LD is the IL School Breakfast Coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. She is a registered dietitian.
Are products like Cheerios, Pillsbury biscuits or Yoplait yogurt on your grocery list? If so, you have the opportunity to help feed families in need for free!
Yep, for FREE!
Buy Product + Enter Code = 5 Meals
Now, when you buy a specially-marked General Mills product, you’ll see an Outnumber Hunger code on the packaging.
Simply go to http://www.outnumberhunger.com and enter the code to secure 65 cents for Feeding America food banks such as the St. Louis Area Foodbank. That’s enough for Feeding America to provide five meals!
On the website, you’ll also enter your zip code, which helps determine which Feeding America food bank receives that donation. Could it be any easier to make an impact?
Plus, entering codes isn’t the only way you can help!
Sam’s Club Food Drive = Helping Families
Through March 24, local Sam’s Club stores will be hosting an in-store food drive. Buy an extra box of cereal or macaroni, and drop your donation in the box to help local families.
Text HUNGER + Zip Code to 3456 = 12 Meals
If that sounds challenging, you can help out just by texting the word HUNGER + your zip code to 3456. That simple act secures an additional 12 meals for your local food bank! You won’t be charged for the donation – the only cost to you is your cell plan’s standard data/text rates!
Last year, the Outnumber Hunger program donated more than $750,000 to Feeding America and its’ member food banks, including the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
This year, General Mills will donate up to $1.3 million to Feeding America through Outnumber Hunger. And this program has some famous backers! Big Machine Label Group country recording artists are lending their voices and support including:
My name is Ron Banister. I actually grew up in Eastern Kansas but I have been in St. Louis since 1984.
When did you first start volunteering at the Foodbank?
Oh, about two years ago, our church, Ascension Church comes once a month. Now they’re starting to come twice a month. I would come up with them and work up here. Then one day I just asked William about possibly helping. I was really inspired by that. I am retired and I was looking for something to do that would help me give back to people.
Do you feel the St. Louis Area Foodbank impacts the community?
Oh yeah, tremendously. I see an impact from different people that I talk to that use the resources – you know some people who run pantries and such.
Do you feel the work you do is making a difference in the lives of people in need?
Definitely, I definitely do. I work on Mondays at a food pantry that’s in downtown St. Louis and there I am seeing the people that are coming. You just would not believe how appreciative they are of everything we give to them.
What one thing would you like to see happen to improve circumstances for those struggling with hunger in America?
Well, I think one of the things that maybe we could work on is nutrition. I think sometimes we are giving out a lot of cakes and Oreo cookies and we really need to give them some things that are high protein. You know they aren’t getting the protein and the energy that they need.
Would you encourage others to volunteer at the Foodbank?
The only thing I can say is since I started coming here on a more regular basis, and even when I was helping before… I just really enjoy every day that I come here. I really enjoy coming here. I have never really worked at a place that I look forward to when I come in. On the days when me and my wife are out of town, and I miss Friday, I actually go ‘oh darn I am not going to be able to go to the Foodbank.’ I feel like it’s an opportunity and a blessing for me to be able to come up here.
Last week, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts introduced legislation to cut $36 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over 10 years. These cuts could reduce benefits for the millions of American who rely on the food stamp program to feed their families.
Nationally, the average SNAP benefit per person is less than $1.50 per person, per meal. For the last several years, community leaders and organizations have taken a “SNAP Challenge,” to better understand the realities of living on a food stamp budget.
In November, the Washington University Social Justice Center led a campus-wide hunger awareness week that included such a “SNAP” Challenge. The organizer of the event, Joshua Aiken, shares his thoughts on what it was like to live on a food stamp budget and learn about hunger.
After a visit to my brother’s classroom at Roosevelt High School — one of many struggling schools in a now unaccredited school district — I came away with an unanticipated fixation in my thoughts.
Certainly the peeling paint, lack of textbooks, and poor teacher-student ratio occurred to me as reasons the school might have such poor academic outcomes.
But as I left the school, I was stunned by a few words I heard amidst clinking lockers, from one young girl: “I’m so hungry, I can’t think!” The vast majority of students at Roosevelt benefit from federal food assistance programs like SNAP and WIC. After hearing this comment, my interest in understanding these federal programs was peaked.
As the advocacy chair of the Washington University Social Justice Center this year, I had the opportunity to develop and implement an advocacy campaign for a social justice issue. It was my duty to raise awareness and educate students, staff and faculty about the implications of poverty and hunger in the United States.
The Leadership Council expressed excitement when I first suggested the idea of holding a hunger awareness week. Hunger, from a social justice lens, interacts intricately along socioeconomic, racial and gender lines.
As an organization that focuses on raising awareness about the complexity of such paradigms, understanding how food, nutrition and hunger interact with justice is almost perfectly aligned with our mission.
Yet, we did have one concern. “Hunger” is not necessarily an issue our campus chooses to discuss. Outside of organizations like Campus Kitchen, the vast majority of students do not deal with hunger on a daily basis.
At a school heralded for its’ lavish dining services and quality of food, we forget that just a few blocks away from our campus, food is not as accessible as a two-minute walk from your dorm.
We determined that encouraging the campus to take a SNAP challenge would be an incredible way to provide an activism element to our campaign. As the important FARM bill was looming, we knew that the vulnerability of these assistance programs was real.
Initially, we planned to ask students and staff for just a week to eat on $4.24 — the average amount of SNAP aid received weekly by individuals in the state of Missouri. However, as we discussed the proposal with campus partners and other entities, we realized the vast majority of campus partners would not get involved.
Time and time again, when I told my friends or professors about the idea, they said they liked it — but couldn’t risk having hunger detract from their studies. People were not willing to put themselves in another person’s shoes for too long.
The problem with this mindset is that for most people receiving SNAP or WIC support, choosing not to be hungry is not an option. For most, it is not a simple choice of how long one wants to eat on a certain budget, or how careful one wants to be in purchasing groceries, or how thoughtful one has to be in determining portions. The fact that most of us do have the luxury of choosing was my main take away from planning this event.
So then, how could we address hunger in a way that engaged people in conversations around the stigma that surrounds food stamp programs? What could be done to involve the other social justice implications?
Most of us were aware that the St. Louis community is one where hunger is prevalent. Relaying this information to the rest of the Washington University community became our charge.
The leadership council and several other campus partners decided to give students an option to either take the challenge for a full week or just for a day. Eventually, more than 100 campus partners volunteered to take the challenge in some shape or form.
We asked participants to take pictures, tweet, blog, post on Facebook and make as many people as possible aware of the challenge. We received signatures from all participants to attach to a letter we sent to federal and state legislative officials, making our privileged voices heard.
This experience engaged many members of the University community in conversations concerning hunger, poverty, inequality and the role we all play
Furthermore, it has helped me and my Social Justice Center peers ask more questions about what we can do to change the realities of hunger in America.
This spring, we will be hosting a hunger banquet on campus, bringing needed attention to the domestic and international disparities around poverty.
Joshua Aiken Advocacy Chair, Social Justice Center Washington University ’14
Joshua Aiken is the Advocacy Chair at the Social Justice Center.
Washington University ’14
Last March, I challenged our blog readers to help support the St. Louis Area Foodbank by getting involved in the Schnucks eScrip program. Since that time, we have seen eScrip donations nearly double!
To the folks already using their eScrip cards – a big thank you! During 2012, your eScrip donations provided over 3,000 meals for your neighbors in need!
The best thing about eScrip is that it allows you to help make a difference at absolutely no cost to you. If you are curious about the program, here are the easy three-step instructions:
1. Pick up your eScrip card at any Schnucks Customer Service Counter or get your eScrip card at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. Just ask Mary, our friendly Foodbank receptionist!
2. Follow the easy steps to activate the card (this step is particularly important because if too many of the cards issued to the Foodbank fail to be activated, we will not be eligible to receive additional cards).
3. Lastly, when you shop at any Schnucks market, present your eScrip card to the cashier before he or she totals your order.
To those not yet in possession of this valuable card – I ask why not? You need to shop anyway – so why not turn a weekly ‘have to’ into a warm and fuzzy moment by knowing you made a difference in the lives of those in need?
“Even as a foodbanker, and someone who deals with hunger issues on a daily basis, I felt like I walked out of the theatre with a better understanding of hunger in America.”
“One of the most touching moments to me was when a fifth grade girl named Rosie commented that she wanted her kids to have a better life than she has. Rosie’s family struggles with food insecurity, and this child is acutely aware of the hardships that her family endures on a daily basis. Having to be so concerned with such significant family issue at the age of 11 is a reality that most people never have to experience.”
- Sara Lewis, agency relations coordinator for the St. Louis Area Foodbank
“A Place at the Table undertakes the overwhelming task of illustrating the wide ranging affects of hunger. It’s about morality, education, nutrition, food deserts, food insecurity, poverty, politics and patriotism.”
“On one end, the documentary demonstrates how hunger can affect one child’s physical and mental health. So, we witness the affects of hunger on a very singular and personal level. Then, the film explores how the problem of hunger weakens our national security. We, therefore, witness how hunger affects every America, even if that American is not experiencing food insecurity. As reported by Ready, Willing and Unable to Serve, three out of four children are unfit for military service, and obesity is a significant contributing factor. The film coherently explains how food insecurity leads to obesity and poor health.”
“So, it makes sense when Jeff Bridges, a strong hunger advocate, says, “’It’s not only a moral issue. It’s a patriotic issue.’
“Ultimately, the film resonated with me because it shows how hunger causes a rippling effect in our country. The film is like watching a storm ravage a boat. For too many families, it is too difficult to steer the ship straight. Leaving the theater, you can’t help but desire a time for slack tide in our county – a time when the waves are still, a time when the boat rests with more ease, a time when mothers and fathers do not stress over providing nutritious food for their children.”
- Patrick Delhougne, development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
“I thought that film did an excellent job at putting a face on hungry. I felt it wasn’t statistics heavy – there was a good mix of researched support, but I liked that it showcased different walks of life that are affected by the ever looming (and growing issue) of hunger. Some individuals that might otherwise be overlooked.”
“A few issues discussed that I thought were integral to portraying a full picture of what food insecurity entails – incomes remaining stagnant while the price of living and food continuing to rise, limited food choices – whether it be a food desert situation or lack of funds to purchase healthy food and instead having to resort to processed food (more bang for buck), and the negative effects on one’s health. Overall, I think that it appeals to someone that might be aware of the current issue this country is facing, but also can speak to those that might be more in the dark in regards to the severity of the issue of poverty and hunger.”
- Andrea Hale, SNAP Outreach Coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
“This weekend I had the opportunity to watch the often wrenching and surprisingly jaw dropping documentary “A Place at the Table”. The film chronicles the surprisingly intertwined issues of hunger and obesity in the United States.Facts and figures tied to tales of urban and rural poverty serve to illustrate the shocking real-world impact of policy decisions that have impacted America’s poor for over 30 years.”
“Drawing a striking contrast between the countries attitudes toward poverty in the late 60’s and 70’s, which nearly eradicated hunger, and the indifference toward the poor since the 1980s and the subsequent decline in government benefits, “A Place at the Table” is an indictment of government priorities which will hopefully force policy makers to look at the impact of their decisions on the huddled masses and think about their role in directly impacting the lives of American citizens and the course this country takes.”
- PJ Tamayo, illustrator and writer at PGAV Destinations in St. Louis
“What I liked most about “A Place at the Table” is that it illustrated why obesity and hunger go hand and hand. I have heard people ask “If hunger is a problem then why are poor people fat?”.
“A Place at the Table” explained in great detail why this is happening and how we can fix it. Debunking the myth that being obese and poor, is due to people making bad food choices when in reality it has much more to do with affordability and availability.”
- Allison Jones, Web and Design Coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
Today, the Missouri Foundation for Health announced a $1 million grant to the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
The grant, which is part of the Foundation’s $4 million Emergency Food Access Project, will be awarded over the next two years.
These funds will allow the Foodbank to transport more donated nutritious food, which is needed to offset decreases in federal commodities caused by program cuts and pending sequestration.
In 2012, the Foodbank saw a decrease of 3.5 million pounds of USDA Commodities – 10.8 million pounds in FY2011 versus 7.3 million pounds in FY2012.
Still, the St. Louis Area Foodbank managed to distribute 25 million pounds of food in fiscal year 2012. Nearly three million pounds of that food were fresh fruits and vegetables.
These items are often the most expensive to acquire and transport. Unfortunately, food manufacturers and farmers are donating less fresh product as their food production efficiencies improve, and as gas prices increase, the cost of transporting food goes up.
Thanks to the grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health, the Foodbank will have the funds available to solicit, transport and distribute more fresh, nutritious food to families in need.
“This grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Frank Finnegan, president and chief executive officer of the St. Louis Area Foodbank. “Through this collaborative effort, MFH and the St. Louis Area Foodbank will strengthen the emergency food distribution system and improve the health of clients by ensuring local community partners have the ability to distribute fresh produce to hungry Missourians.”
The Missouri Foundation for Health’s Emergency Food Access Project aims to increase food distribution to as many underserved Missourians as possible, with an emphasis on nutritious and fresh food options.
Of the $1 million award to the St. Louis Area Foodbank, at least $200,000 will be applied toward infrastructure improvements at the Foodbank’s 381 Missouri partner agencies, which include food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters.
Many of our agencies need improvements to their food transportation and storage capacities. These funds will help make those improvements possible.