Maddie Smith, Author at St. Louis Area Foodbank

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Political, not Partisan: Signing on with other Nonprofits to Stay Accountable

We’ve signed another letter to lawmakers, but not one about safety-net programs. Let’s talk about why.

Political action – what we describe at the St. Louis Area Foodbank as “advocacy” – is a critical part of what we do. We work hard to address hungry people’s immediate needs and to work towards eliminating hunger in our community, and we cannot do that without being politically engaged. After all, how can we work towards a hunger-free future if we don’t work with our leaders and try to inform the laws that shape that future?  And so we support the policies that strengthen hunger-relief programs and oppose those that threaten them.

So we are political. We work with the public, other nonprofits, and the government; it’s unavoidable.

But being politically active and being politically partisan is not the same thing.

As a nonprofit organization we are firmly nonpartisan, and this makes sense because hunger is a nonpartisan issue. Viable solutions demand everybody’s participation and cooperation, and we want to remain a safe and trustworthy place for the public that supports us, the volunteers that visit us, and the agencies that work alongside us.

But in February during the National Prayer Breakfast, the president promised to undo the Johnson Amendment, a section of tax law that ensures nonprofits steer clear of partisan politics. In fact, several bills have already been introduced in Congress this year that would nearly or completely do just that.

This provision requires that organizations with tax-exempt status – charitable nonprofits, foundations, and religious organizations – “not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

In other words, as the law now stands, our work and funding must remain focused on feeding hungry people, not on the success or failure of any politicians. Our ability to pursue political action is limited and clearly defined, ensuring that the public support we receive is being spent on our mission and not on partisan politics. If the law changes, however, we could be targeted by political campaigns for support or donations. And worse, we could lose the public’s trust – trust we need to keep our shelves stocked and our neighbors’ bellies full.

And that’s why we joined nonprofit organizations across the nation and signed a letter initiated by the National Council of Nonprofits urging our lawmakers to protect the laws that protect nonprofits and hold us accountable.

Hunger, after all, is everybody’s problem. Why drag it into the political mire and dilute critical hunger-relief work with partisanship?

Read more about the Johnson Amendment, the proposed bills, and the letter we’ve signed here. And stay connected with us for updates about our political – not partisan – actions.

National School Breakfast Week

This week is National School Breakfast Week, spotlighting the benefits of school breakfast for kids across the country.

The School Breakfast Program (SBP) is designed to give students affordable access to food at the start of each school day, which promotes better learning outcomes as well as happier, healthier kids. Fortunately, like school lunches, school breakfast is heavily subsidized or free for students from low-income families.

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But even as we celebrate this important federal program, we cannot help but take note of troubling recommendations coming from the House of Representatives.

On January 23rd a bill titled “Choices in Education Act of 2017” was introduced in the United States House of Representatives. The first half of this bill (H.R.610) repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, replacing it with an educational voucher program.

As introduced, Title II of the bill – the “No Kid Hungry Act” – also repeals a 2012 rule established by the USDA that enforces nutritional standards for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. These standards – designed to support student health through better, more balanced nutrition – require schools to offer more fruits & vegetables, whole grains, and low or fat-free milk while limiting the amount of sodium, saturated fats, and trans fats in school meals. The standards also provide guidelines for meeting the caloric needs of students at different ages and stages of development.

At the St. Louis Area Foodbank, 31% of the people we serve are children, 95% of whom participate in the National School Lunch Program. These students rely on food from school to make up for shortfalls at home, which puts schools in a unique position to provide for kids’ nutritional needs.

According to a 2016 report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, “[s]tudies of schools in three states—Connecticut, Texas, and Washington—show that under the updated standards, children’s eating habits are improving […] Students of all ages are choosing lunches higher in nutritional quality and lower in calories per gram and consuming more fruits and larger shares of their entrees and vegetables.”

This is great and important news for children suffering from food insecurity, but this progress might be short lived if nutritional standards are rolled back.

The National School Lunch Program is one of the country’s most important safety net programs, one that helps kids who might otherwise face serious nutritional deficits in adolescence and the many long term consequences of hunger as adults.

While H.R.610 has only recently been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and while it is far too soon to tell if this bill will rouse much support in the House or Senate, it does raise serious questions about how we support the most vulnerable kids in our communities.

Hunger – especially child hunger – is a bi-partisan issue that demands our best thinking and effort. We will continue to follow this bill and others concerning the hunger safety-net and child nutrition in the weeks and months to come. We invite you to join us.

Check back often for more legislative updates as we work together to fight hunger in our community.

Perryville Pillow Talk

Our neighbors in Perryville have had some rough nights of sleep, so we’re sending pillows!

Early this week, we were happy to receive pallets of pillows that were donated because they were mismarked and couldn’t be sold in retail stores. We started distributing the pillows to transitional housing programs, but when we heard about the tornado emergency in Perryville, MO, we wanted to help. We worked with Salvation Army to load up two of their trucks with new pillows for those affected by the Perryville tornado Tuesday night.

We were glad to be involved and send help however we could. We didn’t know that the pillows we received as a donation would be needed this week, but we were happy to take them knowing they’d find good homes somewhere.

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Many people don’t realize that we take donations of all kinds, or that we distributed over one million pounds of non-food items last year. These include household cleaning items, emergency response items, personal care and child care items. All of these are among the most requested items for families in need, and we’re proud to distribute them.

Thank you to Salvation Army for helping us help others rest easy!

Make an Impact: Your Generosity Feeds Hungry People

It’s simple — for every dollar donated to the St. Louis Area Foodbank, 97 cents go directly toward feeding the hungry. In fact, working with our network of nearly 500 partner agencies in Missouri and Illinois, the Foodbank provides food assistance to 43,000 people each week; more than 2.4 million meals per month.

meal makers

We are grateful for the food donations the Foodbank receives from individuals, corporations, retailers and community food drives. But the reality is that the Foodbank relies on donors like you to maintain our warehouse, keep the shelves stocked with nutritionally balanced foods and transport that food when and where it’s needed.

Like any household, having a reliable revenue stream allows us to plan more effectively and stretch donations even further. As a supporter of the Foodbank, we hope you’ll consider becoming a monthly donor — a Meal Maker. You can choose an amount that fits with your giving budget to have funds automatically withdrawn from your banking account. Prefer regular mail? Just send in a voided check with instructions for the amount of support you’d like to provide each month. Again, funds will automatically be withdrawn from your account. Your financial donations change lives.

It’s easy to sign up online at www.mealmakers.org.

Pantry Spotlight: Pittsburg Food Pantry

The Pittsburg Food Pantry has served the residents of Williamson County in Illinois for nearly 20 years.

Eight years ago, River Church, at the invitation of the Village of Pittsburg, took over the responsibility of the Pantry, and has run it from their location ever since. The Pantry is open the last

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Saturday of every month from 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. and provides emergency food boxes between distribution days. In addition, it provides blood pressure screenings upon request and helps people fill out requests for SNAP benefits. On average, the Pittsburg Food Pantry feeds 350 people each month.

“We strive to meet any need that we can,” notes the pantry director, Melissa Swayze. “We like to think that our set-up is unique. For example, we load the food for every person that comes in our door; they do not carry it out themselves. We have blood pressure screenings available and can help with just about any situation someone may have. If we cannot help them, we can certainly help get them the information that they may need to find that help.” The Pantry serves people from all types of life situations, including job loss or unexpected expenses that take limited income away from buying food. The organization also has seen an increase in the number of senior citizens coming for food assistance.

A Foodbank partner for the past eight years, Pittsburg Food Pantry receives many types of dry goods, produce, dairy and household items in deliveries twice a month. “These items are greatly important,” says Swayze. “Our Pantry depends heavily on the Foodbank. We would not be able to serve the number of people we do without the Foodbank.”

September is Potato Month

Each year, the Foodbank distributes roughly 800,000 lbs of potatoes to families in need. We know how to celebrate a potato around here!

Potatoes are a great source of potassium, fiber, and vitamins like B6. They’re also extremely versatile, and an easy addition to any meal. September is National Potato Month, so we’re giving our spud friends some love. Kelly Hall, our Registered Dietitian, demonstrates a simple and tasty potato salad recipe in our latest recipe video.

Easy Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of baby red potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup onion (red or white), finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon honey mustard
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Boil potatoes until soft, approximately 10 minutes. Drain and let cool.
  2. Combine onion, green pepper, mustard, olive oil, vinegar, and mayonnaise in a bowl.
  3. Once potatoes have cooled, combine potatoes with mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Give the recipe a try, and let us know what you think!

After School Snacks

When students come home hungry, keep the learning going by teaching them about healthy eating habits.

Kelly, our Registered Dietitian, shows some simple snacks that will fill your kids up and keep them from added sugars, sodium, and preservatives.

Ants on a Log

Ingredients:
  • 1-2 celery stalks, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  • Peanut Butter
  • Raisins
Instructions:
  1. Spread peanut butter over celery and place raisins on peanut butter.

Snail Snacks

Ingredients:
  • 1-2 celery stalks, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
  • Peanut Butter
  • 1 apple, sliced thinly
  • pretzels, broken into pieces
Instructions:
  1. Spread peanut butter over celery and press an apple slice into peanut butter.
  2. Place pretzel pieces at the end of the celery in the peanut butter, so they look like snail antennas.

Trail Mix

Ingredients:
  • 1 cups cereal
  • 1 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 3/4 cup granola
  • 3/4 cup raisins
Instructions:
  1. Mix together and enjoy!
The best thing about this recipe is that it is completely customizable based on what you and your family like. This recipe contains 4 ingredients, but feel free to add multiple kinds of cereal or several dried fruits. If your child has a nut allergy or doesn’t like raisins, feel free to make the trail mix they will most enjoy by adding their favorite snacks.

Trail Mix Tips

Here’s a break down of different trail mix components and what each item will add to your snack. Happy mixing!

Nuts

  • Nuts are loaded with healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin E, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Whether they’re raw or roasted, go for unsalted, unsweetened nuts to keep sugar and sodium under control.
  • Our healthy favorites: Almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts. Higher-calorie macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, and pine nuts are also good options in moderation.

Seeds

  • Seeds provide many of the same nutritional benefits as nuts.
  • Sprinkle a handful of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax, or hemp seeds in trail mix for an extra boost of nutrients.

Dried Fruit

  • This sugary treat can easily become a danger, so pay attention to the ingredient list and serving sizes. In moderation, dried fruit can be a great source of fiber, antioxidants, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
  • Look for dried fruit options with as little added sugar and preservatives as possible. It’s also pretty easy to make your own dried fruit at home in the oven.
  • Our Favorites: Dried apples, cherries, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, apricots, raisins, banana chips, and pineapple chunks.

Grains

  • Add some complex carbohydrates to your custom blend for extra fiber, which boosts overall energy and helps to keep you full.
  • Choose whole grains whenever possible and avoid highly processed cereals that add unnecessary sugar and sodium.
  • Shredded wheat cereal, pretzels, whole-grain cereals like Cheerios or Chex, bran flakes, granola, toasted oats, puffed rice cereal, and air-popped popcorn can all add a little bit of crunch.

Sweets

  • Sometimes we all need a little something sweet to round out the mix. Just remember to add treat-like options sparingly. Add a sprinkling of M&Ms, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, or chocolate-covered nuts. Choose dark varieties for extra antioxidants.

Savory Extras

  • Once the building blocks are all set, adding spices is a great way to change up the flavor a bit. Season lightly with sea salt, curry, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or cayenne pepper.

Combinations

  • Simple and Sophisticated: Almonds, dried cherries, dark chocolate chips, sea salt, cinnamon.
  • Old-School GORP: Peanuts, raisins, M&Ms.
  • Tropical Mix: Cashews, Brazil nuts, dried mango, coconut flakes, banana chips.
  • Fall Flavors: Pecans, dried apples, maple granola, pumpkin seeds, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
  • Savory Seeds: Almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper.
  • Beachy: Macadamia nuts, white chocolate chips, dried pineapple, coconut flakes.
  • Nuts for Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, pecans, raisins.
  • Chocolate Lover: Hazelnuts, dried cranberries, chocolate-covered almonds, M&Ms, cacao nibs.
  • Monkey Munch: Banana chips, peanuts, almonds, dark chocolate chips, raisins, coconut flakes.
  • Movie Night: Popcorn, peanuts, M&Ms, dried cranberries.

Kids always come home from school with an appetite, so make sure they have healthy options to choose from to keep their minds and bodies in shape for this school year.

Zucchini Day

Happy National Zucchini Day from the St. Louis Area Foodbank!

Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable that is good for you, so we’re celebrating today with zucchini fries. Kelly Hall, our Registered Dietitian, demonstrates this easy recipe in our latest video below.

Zucchini is full of vitamin K, which helps support blood and bone health. It’s also a light vegetable that’s perfect for summer meals because it won’t make you feel weighed down.

The recipe for zucchini fries and a recipe for zucchini corn salad are below. Try them out and let us know what you think!

 

Baked Zucchini Fries

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 zucchini, quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  3. Working in batches, drop zucchini in flour, then dip into eggs, then place in bread crumb mixture, pressing to coat.
  4. Place zucchini onto prepared baking sheet. Place into oven and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.
  5. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Zucchini and Corn Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 zucchinis, diced
  • 1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic to the skillet, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add zucchini, corn, basil, oregano and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Stir in lime juice and cilantro.
  4. Serve immediately and enjoy!

We’re Under Construction!

If you’ve been out to our facility recently, you may have noticed a few changes.

It’s not uncommon to see bulldozers, shovels, and cranes hanging out around the front of our building these days. We’re in the middle of some big changes that will help us fight hunger in our community. We’re adding a second-floor addition to house our new Hunger Engagement Center.

The Hunger Engagement Center will provide a versatile space for meetings and classrooms to help us engage with the community. We’ll also have a kitchen prep space for cooking demonstrations and other food-related outreach.

The first floor is also being expanded to include more rooms and storage for our growing company, and wonderful volunteers. We’re very excited about our expansion, and we can’t wait to put it to good use soon. Below are some photos that show the big changes we’re making.

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This area used to house our Agency Relations team.
May 24, 2016 (2)
The area was cleared of all non-structural furnishings.

 

 

July 12, 2016 (4)
New steel was installed to support the second floor.
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Wall supports are being added to the first floor.