In honor of National Nutrition Month, it is important to take a look at the efforts being made to provide healthy food options to the millions of people in need of food assistance in our country.
With an ever-growing push toward eating healthy and staying fit, food banks like the St. Louis Area Foodbank are trying to do their part to provide clients with healthier foods. We also strive to give families in need nutrition education to help them make healthy choices on their own.
We distribute millions of pounds of food to those in need, and we want to make sure that food not only fills the clients’ stomachs, but also helps them provide a healthier future for their families.
Typically seen as a large warehouse that distributes shelf-stable food, the Foodbank is evolving. We are working hard to provide more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats.
One of our overall goals is to better meet the nutritional needs of those we serve. Diets rich in these foods will help reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes – three conditions that are prevalent in today’s society, particularly for the poor.
The St. Louis Area Foodbank is also focusing on programs and services that will help communities gain additional access to healthy food. We also share opportunities for families to learn the benefits of health eating.
We help families in need apply for food stamps, and provide senior citizens with a supplemental box of food every month. These are just two ways we are offering struggling families in our area better access to healthy, nourishing food choices.
Our food fairs and mobile markets deliver fresh produce, bakery goods and dairy products to pantries all around the St. Louis region. We also provide our clients with a wide variety of resources to make healthy living a possibility for those struggling to make ends meet.
One of the best resources to help food banks and health professionals bridge the gap between hunger relief and good nutrition is the Healthy Food Bank Hub.
The Hub is designed to provide healthy food resources to food banks across the country. The tool includes information on healthy food distribution, recipes, educational materials and much more.
For those that look to the St. Louis Area Foodbank, food pantries and soup kitchens for their next meal, eating healthy is not something they can do on their own.
The St. Louis Area Foodbank is making strides to provide healthy food and nutrition education, making the idea of healthier, well-fed communities isn’t too far away.
Each of us can do our part to make healthier food options available to all of us. Contact the St. Louis Area Foodbank and see what you can do to help, whether it is volunteering at a distribution center or simply inquiring about efforts in your community to help create awareness about nutrition.
Together we can work towards a healthier, more nutritious future.
By Kelly Hall, RD, LD
IL School Breakfast Coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank and registered dietitian.
Here are just a few more places where you can lend a hand:
Agency Name: Good Samaritan Ministries in Carbondale
Volunteers needed: To help hand out food to families in need. Dates/times: 8 a.m. Dec. 20, 2013
8 a.m. Dec. 23, 2013 Address:
Good Samaritan Ministries Food Pantry
University Baptist Church
700 S Oakland
Carbondale, IL 62901
They’re a time of gift-giving, parties and jubilant celebration.
Sadly, the winter holidays are also a time of elevated stress and budget-blowing overspending.
Even those who aren’t struggling financially may find it hard to come up with the extra money for holiday gifts, décor and food.
Here at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, we know just how hard it is for many of our clients to provide their loved ones with all the traditions of the holidays.
So, we’ve created a Pinterest board specifically dedicated to celebrating holidays on a budget. We’ve got:
• Inexpensive ideas for decorating, like bringing the outdoors inside or using wrapped gifts as décor.
• DIY tips for making homemade gifts, such as making ornaments with your child’s handprint or creating gift baskets!
• Ideas for fun and cheap holiday activities to do with the kids, like making cotton ball snowmen or reindeer cookies.
• Budget recipes for holiday meals, featuring shopping lists and cool ideas for cutting costs. (We have a whole board dedicated just to budget recipes!)
Yesterday was the second annual #GivingTuesday, and you all made us proud.
St. Louisans rallied around our social media efforts yesterday and made @STLFoodbank the number two Twitter trend in our region!
Plus, the number of online gifts we received through our website yesterday more than doubled the number we received last year on #GivingTuesday!
Even better, the online funds donated yesterday through www.stlfoodbank.org was more than the amount of gifts we received in the previous four years combined on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving!
On our website alone, we received $5,020 in donations! That’s almost twice as much as last year! We’re grateful to Gamlin Whiskey House and Sub Zero Vodka Bar for offering up dinner for four people at their restaurants for anyone that made an online donation through our #GivingTuesday webpage.
Yesterday, 38 folks became first-time donors through the Foodbank website. That is very exciting!
Thanks to Chris Sommers, co-founder of Pi Pizzeria and Givver, for coming up with a terrific idea for fundraising on #GivingTuesday.
Every donor who made a #GivingTuesday donation of $10 or more to the Foodbank through Givver received a free Pi pizza!
Thanks to Pi, Chris, the Foodbank Social Media Avengers, and everyone who donated, tweeted and spread the word! And thanks to Cindy Levin for posting an #unselfie – a good deed version of the popular #selfie – of her acts of generosity on #GivingTuesday!
Thanks to your hard work – and the overwhelming generosity of St. Louis city and county residents – we brought in a HUGE amount of food in the 2013 Scouting for Food drive!
So far, the St. Louis Area Foodbank has collected 688,126 pounds of food since the scouts starting pick up food on Nov. 16, 2013. That’s a whopping 55,111 more pounds than last year, and we’re still counting! Additional donations will be either picked up and/or delivered over the next week or two, so our grand total will be even higher!
Across the bi-state region, the results were just as astounding! According to the Post-Dispatch, “more than 2.1 million food items were collected by participants in the annual Scouting for Food drive in the St. Louis area and parts of southern Illinois and southeast Missouri.”
“It was the most collected since 2008, when 2.2 million items were gathered, said Christine Dieckmann, a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts of America’s Greater St. Louis Area Council.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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