Every year since 1963, May has been designated by the National Council of Senior Citizens as the month for the United States to appreciate and celebrate older adults and their contributions to our communities.
Feeding America food banks like the St. Louis Area Foodbank participate in the movement by raising awareness and showing support for the 4.8 million seniors facing hunger in our country.
You can do your part to help increase awareness for the issue of senior hunger by joining our social media campaign #SolveSeniorHunger. Read more
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.
Hunger Action Month kicked off Sunday and hopefully you’ve had a chance to download our
“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
Choose your profile image:
By Ryan Farmer
Communications manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
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.?
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt examines the contents of a box of food packaged at the St. Louis Area Foodbank for low-income senior citizens / Photo by Ryan Farmer
As the holidays approach, many of us find ourselves searching for ways we can give back to our community.
Most of us are familiar with the tried and true acts of charity:
• Volunteering time, whether by sorting and repacking food for the hungry at the Foodbank, or tutoring an underprivileged teen.
• Donating money to a favorite charity, whether that means dropping a few dollars into the Salvation Army bell ringer’s red bucket, or making an online donation.
But one way we can all help ensure the future safety and health of our neighbors in need is by lending our voices to support the protection of government programs that offer safety nets for the poor.
As Congress works to write a new Farm Bill and bring our fiscal house in order, we, as generous Americans, must remind our legislators that they must not balance the budget by cutting programs that put food on the table for those less fortunate.
The St. Louis Area Foodbank is a proud member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic charity committed to feeding the hungry. Feeding America offers many suggestions for ways to voice your support for struggling Americans.
• Write or email your representatives and senators and let them know that cuts to SNAP (food stamps) will be devastating on the 50 million Americans living in food insecurity.
• Visit with your local legislators in person, and voice your support for protecting invaluable safety nets like SNAP and The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
• Call Congress! Just dial Feeding America’s toll-free number, enter your zip code, and you’ll be connected to your Member of Congress’s office. Take your advocacy to the next!
• Share your story here. If you’ve struggled with hunger, or if you know someone who has, offer legislators a picture of how hunger looks in your community.
• Initiate a letter-writing campaign with your neighbors, your church group or friends. Encourage them to convey this message:
I support my local food bank, and I know they are struggling to meet the needs of our community. Food donations are drying up, gas and food prices remain high, and nearly 50 million Americans are living in food insecurity. Cuts to SNAP will be devastating. While food banks, churches, and pantries are doing great work in our community, charity alone cannot meet the need for food assistance.
You have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of hungry Americans. As Congress considers how to write a new Farm Bill and reduce our national debt, Congress must protect and strengthen hunger-relief programs like the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). With unemployment still high and many Americans struggling to make ends meet, Congress cannot cut the programs that are helping many of our neighbors put food on the table. Given the associated healthcare, educational, and economic costs of hunger and poor nutrition, cuts to these programs are not only immoral, they are short-sighted and costly in the long run.
As your constituent, I ask that you remember the families who are struggling in our state and remain committed to protecting programs that are a lifeline for hungry Americans. Please pass a strong Farm Bill that that protects and invests in TEFAP and SNAP.
For more information on ways you can be a hunger advocate and take action for your community this holiday season, visit Feeding America’s Hunger Action Center.
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
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
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.
Pam Imboden is the Marketing and Development Manager at Crider Health Center
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
• 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
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.
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.
2005-2006 “What We Eat in America” study
The Food Assistance National Input-Output Multiplier (FANIOM) Model and Stimulus Effects of SNAP
USDA Food and Nutrition Service http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap
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 Programhttp://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/menu/Published/snap/FILES/Other/FSPProfile.pdf
FACT vs. Fiction: USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Andrea Hale is the SNAP outreach coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank