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Revolution For Good

Companion

Companion has decided to partner with the St. Louis Area Foodbank for their 20th anniversary. I sat down with Josh Allen to talk about the bread revolution and his commitment to the St. Louis community.

Josh, you kind of grew up in the food industry, right?

Yes, my family ran a regional wholesale food distribution business in St. Louis for over 100 years.

What can you tells us about the open house on Saturday, November 9?

We’re so appreciative of the support that the St. Louis community has shown us since we pulled our first baguettes from our stone ovens in South City in 1993, that we thought the least we could do was have a bit of an anniversary celebration. The Open House is our way of saying thanks. We’ll have plenty of bread and pastries, chef demonstrations, kids’ activities, music, ice carving, factory tours and samples from other St. Louis area micro-producers.

What is your favorite Companion product to make?

Every weekend we make a special over-sized, naturally leavened country bread called Miche. It is truly the essence of bread making of simply flour, water, sea salt and lots of TIME. It makes me the most happy to pull these big large loaves out of the oven.

What exactly is the Early Bird Outlet?

The EBO is our retail factory store that is open every Friday through Sunday from 7 AM to Noon. We produce nearly 15,000 lbs of bread and pastry each weekend day, so we thought we would make a bit extra and have it available to the public. It’s sort of a pop-up bakery each week in that we transform our loading dock, after our last truck has left the building,  into the Outlet.

Everything is on wheels and it all just rolls into place. Since we don’t have the same costs built into these products as we do when we have to pack and deliver around town, we pass the savings onto the folks who venture down to see us. All of the bread is sold for $2.50/lb. regardless of the variety which represents up to 50 percent savings on what you might find elsewhere.

Speaking of Birds, Chris Carpenter is not just a legendary St. Louis Cardinal. He’s also a Bread Revolutionary. Tell me about the bread revolution.

We wanted to create a campaign this year that took us back to our roots in simply making great bread. Our business has grown in a lot of different directions – two cafes, the EBO, frozen distribution, dipping oils, chocolates, jams – but at our core, we just bread bakers. The Revolutionary campaign was a way for us to remind ourselves and St. Louis about that. Aaron Segall of Ceregraphic deserves the credit. He’s been with us over 15 years helping define and design our look.

As a local business owner, how do you think supporting organizations like the St. Louis Area Foodbank has impacted your business?

We operate our business around what we call Taking Care of the 4C’s “Our Companions, Our Customers, Our Company and Our Community.” The entire St. Louis hospitality industry is full of the most amazing, caring, generous people. Three or four times a month, we participate in a wide variety of events in support of the community. It is truly who and what we are. We have been blessed by this community to still be able to bake bread daily. Giving back is what it’s all about.

What prompted you to partner with the St. Louis Area Foodbank for Companion’s 20th anniversary?

We wanted to partner with an organization that is not only committed to St. Louis and involved daily with the food industry but also one that continues to make a difference in the lives of those in need of food assistance.

We are committed to being able to give at least 20,000 meals!

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For details on their open house go to http://www.companionstl.com/20th-anniversary-open-house/

By Patrick Delhougne

Development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

The County Fair Comes to the Foodbank

Every year around this time, Foodbank employees gather in our main warehouse for a little bit of fun that benefits an important cause – the United Way of Greater St. Louis.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank is a proud member agency of the United Way. We’re just one of more than 170 area agencies that receive funding from the United Way. Those funds are used to further our mission of feeding hungry people throughout the bi-state region.

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At our employee United Way rally we remind our fellow staff members that when they support the United Way, they’re not only supporting the  work that we do here at the Foodbank, but they are helping the entire community.

Our United Way rally planning committee, headed by our Food Drive Coordinator Casey Milton, always ensures that we’re not just raising funds, but also employees’ spirits.

Casey always comes up with a theme for the day. Rally committee members usually end up dressing in some sort of costume based around the theme and this year was no exception.

Our 2013 theme was The County Fair. There was a ring toss game, a pie-eating contest, hot dogs, hay bales, funnel cakes and much more.

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There was even a dunking booth. Weeks prior to the rally, employees could vote (for $1 each) for who they wanted to see in the dunking booth. The top two vote-getters (our President & CEO, Frank Finnegan, and our Inventory Control Manger, Tim Jackson) each spent 15 minutes praying that their fellow employees had bad aim.

Employees could purchase tickets to participate in various games throughout the day for the chance to win some really great prizes. The totals are still being calculated, but it looks like we’re on pace to exceed last year’s fundraising totals. The more we raise through the rally and payroll deductions, the more people in our community get helped.

We might as well have some fun while we’re doing it.

Food Safety Is Job #1

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When you deal with millions of pounds of food each year, food safety is a top priority.

The American Institute of Baking (AIB) is committed to protecting the safety of the global food supply chain and delivering high value educational and technical programs.

AIB International performs detailed audits on companies in the food industry to determine if they are practicing necessary food safety measures to protect consumers.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank recently received high marks from AIB International.

It was a long road, but with dedication and lots of hard work, we scored with the best of the best in the food industry.

It took the efforts of many different individuals to receive a superior rating.

By far, the biggest improvement we’ve made at the Foodbank is the culture. The warehouse staff, drivers and facilities departments all take food safety seriously. Our staff has been trained, educated and we’ve incorporated steps into our processes to ensure the communities we serve have safe food to eat each day.

We have always held food safety to a high standard for the clients we serve. Once the food leaves our facility, we expect that it will be stored properly at our partner agencies before being distributed to food insecure individuals.

Our agencies face unique challenges such as adequate transportation of cold items and storage, but neither is an excuse for poor food safety. The AIB audit put us to the test to ensure that each step in the distribution process has measures in place to prevent food contamination.

So, what’s next? We are already planning and preparing for our next AIB audit that will take place in the next 12 to 18 months. I like to think of food safety as continuous improvement and we are determined to remain a leader in the Feeding America food bank network.

By Tim Jackson

Iinventory control manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Orange is the New Black

Hunger Action Month kicked off Sunday and hopefully you’ve had a chance to download our

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“30 Ways in 30 Days” calendar (if not, you can do that here – link expired).

On Thursday, September 5, we’re encouraging everyone to wear orange to work, school, or wherever you may be. Before you say it…yes, you do look good in orange! It could be a shirt, a tie, a bracelet, or a hat. However, you decide to show your support for hunger relief and the St. Louis Area Foodbank, we want to see it.

Take a picture and post it to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #GoOrangeSTL. If you don’t have anything orange in your wardrobe, take your picture next to something orange that you see around town. Let’s show the world that the bi-state region is committed to fighting hunger in our community. We can’t wait to see all your pics!

Change your Facebook and Twitter profile pictures orange for the month of September

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Choose your profile image:

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By Ryan Farmer

Communications manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

 

Office FUNdraising Party | Part Three

“Car people” live for days like this…the unveiling of a new model. It’s the opportunity to be one of the first in country to sit in the seats, test out the features, and brag to your friends about the experience.

Recently, Frank Leta Acura held an event at their dealership previewing the new Acura 2014 MDX.

From 3:00 to 8:00 p.m., customers were greeted with live music, drinks, hor d’oeuvres and giveaways.

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For every 2014 MDX pre-ordered that day, Frank Leta Acura donated $1,000 to that customer’s charity of choice. The St. Louis Area Foodbank was one of 17 nonprofit organizations from which customers could choose, and we were fortunate that one customer did in fact choose us!

Management at the dealership saw the value in helping those in need and gave their customers an opportunity to help an organization by doing something they were already planning to do, order a new car.

By partnering with us on this event, Frank Leta Acura gave their customers a unique experience, drove traffic to their dealership, gave their employees a fun night, and helped serve the community at large. It was yet another great example of how creating an event or throwing a party at work benefiting the Foodbank can yield tremendous results for all parties involved.

To learn more about Frank Leta Acura, please visit their website by clicking here.

By Patrick Delhougne

Development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Hunger is No Laughing Matter 2013

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A re-enactment of a scene from the movie “The Fugitive” and chocolate covered pretzels were just some of the highlights from this year’s “Hunger Is No Laughing Matter” comedy show, presented by Sun Life Financial.

This past Saturday, nearly 1,000 people filed into the Pageant in University City for the second annual event that helps raise awareness and funds for the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

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Comedian John Mulaney headlined and brought an hour-long set of brand new material. As he usually is, Mulaney was smart, cutting, and a fantastic storyteller. Since moving from his hometown of Chicago, he has had no shortage of interesting encounters in New York City. He recounted a few of those interactions, mixed in some anecdotes about family road trips, his mother’s famous college classmate (Bill Clinton) and at one point re-enacted a scene from “The Fugitive,” which had numerous scenes filmed in his hometown’s own Palmer House Hilton.

One of the night’s most memorable moments came when Mulaney seemed to veer from his routine to take note of a Foodbank poster on the stage that featured a picture of young boy with a mouth full of spaghetti, remarking how the boy looked surprised to have his picture taken. He proceeded to make a few more jokes from there. I’ve walked by that poster numerous times in our hallways here at the Foodbank and I don’t I’ll ever look at the picture the same way again.

He actually started his set by taking a few light-hearted jabs at me for coming up right before him and promising the crowd chocolate covered pretzels from Mom’s Originals at the end of the night and letting everyone know that if they made a $10 donation through Givver.com, they could get a free pizza from Pi Pizzeria. “Why would anyone want to stay to listen to my jokes when Ryan has promised you all free chocolate covered pretzels and discounted pizza? Now everyone’s just waiting for me to get off the stage,” he remarked.

Throughout the night Mulaney interacted with some audience members, including a couple in the front row that he couldn’t believe had been married for 19 years. He seemed genuinely shocked and asked them what there was to do in St. Louis since his flight left at 3am and he was planning on staying up until it was time to head to Lambert. His request for suggestions elicited an all-too-familiar St. Louis response of, “go to the East Side.” John remarked that the gentleman who shouted that out seemed a little too anxious to make the remark and that the crowd member might be trying to get him killed.

Great comedians make it look effortless and that’s exactly what John did from the moment he stepped on-stage. I know everyone at the Foodbank was thankful that he was a part of the evening.

Carmen Lynch, who was hand-picked by Mulaney, was a great addition to the line-up and St. Louisan Dan Chopin kept things flowing as the evening’s emcee, which included a 15-minute set to kick things off.

The goal of the evening was to provide an affordable night out that, where attendees could learn a little more about the Foodbank and have a good time while they were doing it. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone that was in attendance on Saturday that would say it accomplished anything other than that. Thank you to everyone that came out and helped make it a success.

By Ryan Farmer

Communications manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Office FUNdraising Party | Part Two

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On July 19, Missouri Employers Mutual (MEM) again chose the St. Louis Area Foodbank to benefit from their annual workplace fundraiser. The theme this year was “Christmas in July” and the office planning committee really went the extra mile with decorations and other finishing touches.

They served a classic holiday turkey dinner with all the trimmings. They even had pumpkin pie. This all went down on a day when the heat index in St. Louis was 100 degrees!

Since this year’s event also included a food drive, I was joined by Product Donations Coordinator Casey Milton. We were given an opportunity to outline how the Foodbank feeds hungry people in our community and how their support helps us provide more meals for our neighbors in need.

To raise cash donations, employees solicited prizes from MEM clients and other area businesses. Those prizes were raffled off. The most coveted items included four iPads and a stocked wine refrigerator. Employees could also purchase bingo cards, because who doesn’t love a game of bingo?

Finally, they held an ugly Christmas sweater contest. It takes a really competitive spirit to wear a sweater in 100 degree weather, but the winner of the contest was up to the challenge. She was rewarded with a $100 gift card!

Proceeds from all activities will be donated to the Foodbank.

Everyone had a great time. The real difficulty was returning to work after the turkey tryptophan began to kick in!

By Jane Corpora

Grantwriter at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Office FUNdraising Party | Part One

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Niki Baker is the VP of business development at Rabo AgriFinance, an agricultural lending company located in St. Louis County. She helped organize a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) event at their office on July 12.

Around 2:00 p.m., the office began flocking to the CSR Fair. The event was an opportunity for co-workers to socialize and give back to the community. Each department created a themed raffle item for the event.

There was also a $5 entry fee to get into the CSR Fair. Rabo AgriFinance matched (dollar for dollar) all donations received from employees. Funds raised benefited the St. Louis Area Foodbank and St. Patrick Center.

Furthermore, Niki invited me to speak at the CSR Fair about our work in the community. At the podium, I closed by praising their event. It was well-planned, well-executed and mutually beneficial for both organizations.

A couple weeks later, I returned to Rabo AgriFinance to receive a check from CEO Neil Dobbin and the staff for $4,000!

The CSR Fair and the check presentation were both on Friday afternoons. The events provided a great way to start the weekend, both for the employees of Rabo AgriFinance and those served by the St. Louis Area Foodbank!

By Patrick Delhougne

Development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

S.N.A.P. POP QUIZ

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How much do you know about S.N.A.P?

In July, the House of Representatives passed a Farm Bill that removed all funding for S.N.A.P. benefits (formerly known as food stamps). It was the first time food stamps had not been a part of the farm bill since 1973.

The Farm Bill has been a bipartisan bill that acted as safety-net, not only for farmers but also for low-income Americans for decades. Now, the future of the Farm Bill is clear and we don’t know what will happen next.

What we do know is that a lot of people are confused about S.N.A.P. and what it means to some of America’s most vulnerable people.

How much do you know about S.N.A.P.?

Test your knowledge with Feeding America’s SNAP Quiz.