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Lonely Dented Cans


A representative from a St. Louis Area Foodbank partner agency loads donated Target product, inlcuding two bicycles, into their van / Photo by Shannon O’ Connor

I’m a finicky shopper, just like everyone else.

If I see a dented can of green beans on a grocery aisle, I’m probably not going to pick it up and throw it in my cart. I’ll reach out and grab a can that hasn’t been dropped by a rambunctious toddler.

When I choose a tomato or cantaloupe, I’m probably not going to go straight for the one that has a funny spot on it.

Even thought I logically realize that the spotted fruit is just as good as the spotless tomato right next to it, I’m still going to choose the shiniest, prettiest piece of fruit I can find.

Like me, I’m sure you have wondered what happens to all that “unchosen” food? What happens to the lonely dented cans, the misshapen fruit and the bread that is past one day old?

If customers don’t buy it, and the stores need to clear their shelves to make more room for new items, where does all that stuff go? It’s still good, high-quality food!


Fortunately for the families we serve, many local stores donate that food to the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Here, we provide a temporary home to those ugly tomatoes and dented cans. And within a few days, we send it out to hungry families right here in the bi-state region.

Across the country, Feeding America and its affiliated Foodbanks partner with major grocery chains such as Walmart, Sam’s Club, SuperValu and Target.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank alone receives nearly 14 million pounds of donated product each year; 3.7 million of which comes directly from these retail/wholesale donors.

Canned goods, fresh produce, bread, dairy and meat come in every week from 114 individual stores right here in our region!

For example, Target has 22 committed locations which provide us with not just high quality meat and produce, but also essential home goods and personal care items.  So far this year, Target has donated more than 266,000 pounds.

It takes a team effort to get that unsold food from the stores to the Foodbank, and we truly appreciate every store employee who helps make it happen.

One top store that not only presents high donation numbers, but also provides a great mixture of items for our needy families is Target Bridgeton.  Since 2008, the enthusiastic team at Target Bridgeton has helped provide a high quality mix of nutritious food for the 261,000 people we serve every year!

So far this year, they have already donated more than 21,000 pounds.

This week I had the opportunity to accompany Foodbank driver Denise Daugherty as she made her routine pickup at this store.

The store’s receiving manager, Laura Vitale, greeted us at the door.  Laura has worked at Target for 30 years, and had great positive feedback about our partnership.

We did a brief Q & A:

Foodbank: Has a customer ever asked you what Target does with its unsellable items?  If so, what was your response?

Vitale: Absolutely.  I have been asked in the past as well as recently and of course explained that we donate to the St. Louis Area Foodbank.  I provide them with a brief explanation of how the program works.

Foodbank: Among the different categories Target is encouraged to donate from, which do you see the most donations?

Vitale: Well we obviously give more produce since the start of the PFresh program at the store.  Meat items have been increasing as well, due to updates in guidelines and the systematic and timely manner to pull product ready for donation and how to store it until you guys come pick it up.  Overall, I would say each category is showing growth due to the aggressive steps taken by our consumables manager to get each department on board, as well as myself going through the product and organizing it in the warehouse.

Foodbank:  Please detail the donation process.


Vitale: Our department team leaders communicate well in making sure that any potentially donated product is pulled properly from shelves, stored in the right spot, and then sent to me or to customer service, depending on the type of item.  The paper and personal care (or nonfood) items are usually directed to customer service and then processed by me in receiving.  A driver from the St. Louis Area Foodbank picks up from this location Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week.  When the driver calls to notify me of her arrival time, I contact the departments to have them bring their donations to the warehouse.  The items are separated on pallets by product category.  The driver loads up the truck and signs off for the donation.  It goes smoothly each time.  The donations are taken to your facility and then I know distributed to the agencies.

Foodbank: What is the strangest or most unique donation you have given to us that you recall?

Vitale: That is hard to say.  I like to be sure that any item that fits within our guidelines but is still usable or eatable be given to your organization.  However, I would have to say that some of the most unusual items fit under the nonfood category such as today’s BBQ grill we are giving you or the bikes we have given in the past.  Nothing is particularly wrong with these items but they are considered “damaged” or “donated” due to a dent or chipped paint for example.  I know that someone can fix and find use for these items so there is no sense in wasting them.

Foodbank: What is your favorite part about the donation process and what stands out about the Foodbank?

Vitale: I feel proud that Target helps contribute to serving those less fortunate.  I feel proud that I helped to provide something that a family may need and was not otherwise able to pay for on their own.  Also personal care items such as shampoos are important for the individuals to get since food stamps do not always cover such needs.  The St. Louis Area Foodbank works well with Target.  The drivers are consistently prompt, helpful, and provide great attitudes.  Your organization allows us to make use of unsellable items and answers any questions we may have about donations.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank is honored to partner with Target, as well as other retail companies in our service area.  We value the donations given through this program and hope to encourage those retailers and/or wholesalers not already affiliated to please contact us.  We would be happy to work with others in the area and make it easier for stores to operate and minimize waste.

For all the consumers out there, feel free to contact us with any local stores you frequent that may not be donating to an organization such as the Foodbank.

And don’t feel too guilty about not buying that misshapen cantaloupe! It’s getting eaten!




Shannon O’Connor is the product solicitation coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Biggest Loser Delivers Winning Message

Megan Stone, a participant on season 13 of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” unloads Newman’s Own product at the St. Louis Area Foodbank / Photo by Bethany Prange

Food is fuel for the body. That’s a fact we all know, but sometimes forget.

Kim “Kimmy” Stone and her daughter, Megan Stone, of Dittmer, Mo., learned that lesson for good as contestants on Season 13 of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” 

Kim and Megan say one of the most important things they learned on the show was to think of food as a source of nutrition and sustenance for the body – not as a comfort or crutch during moments of stress, drama or high emotion.

Though it seems like common sense, it bears repeating the food should only be eaten when you’re hungry. Most of us are guilty of eating when we’re bored, lonely or upset.

Kim and Megan are a testament to the health benefits that can result from understanding the role of food in your life.

Thursday, they visited the St. Louis Area Foodbank, where food and hunger are an everyday matter.  Megan came to the Foodbank to distribute 5,000 pounds of Newman’s Own spaghetti sauce and salad dressings.

Newman’s Own donated the product to the Foodbank after Megan and her fellow “The Biggest Loser” contestants competed to unload a truck of their products on the show back in March. See episode.

During their visit this week, Megan and Kim shared the tips they learned from “The Biggest Loser” about healthy eating and nutrition, key elements of our mission here at St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Obviously, the Foodbank’s first priority is to make sure the 57,100 people we serve each week have enough to eat. For many of our clients, hunger is a feeling they know all too well.

We realize that for many low-income families, putting food on the table can still mean choosing whatever food is available and affordable. That’s why the Foodbank makes providing fresh produce and healthy food options one of our top priorities.

But as we do this, we also want to equip the families we serve with the same knowledge offered to Kim and Megan on “The Biggest Loser” ranch. We want our clients and our partner agencies to have the knowledge to make the healthy choices whenever possible.

Kim and Megan had a few tips to share from their experiences on the ranch that can easily be related to everyday life – regardless of a family’s income level.

• Hydrate. Water is free and is essential to good health. Megan says staying hydrated helps the body lose weight and maintain optimum health.
• Get active. Exercising doesn’t have to mean going to an expensive gym, says Kim, a registered nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Take a walk around your neighbor or play soccer with the kids in the yard.

• If you must eat unhealthy foods, counteract it with extra physical activity – walking, jogging.

• Whenever possible, consider the value of what you’re eating. Even if a small portion of potato chips has the same amount of calories as a portion of baby carrots, choose the carrots. The benefits are greater.

    Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator for the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Bikers Bring Backpacks of Love

Two area bikers show up for the Bikers for Backpacks event at the St. Louis Area Foodbank / Photo by Bethany Prange

The first Bikers for Backpacks Ride for St. Louis Area Foodbank was a huge success thanks to the wonderful people who showed up to ride, donate or volunteer their time.
Although Friday was cold and rainy, Mother Nature smiled on us on Saturday, shining down with sunny skies and only a slight chill in the air.  When we set up our registration table in the Foodbank’s back parking lot, we weren’t quite sure how many motorcycles we’d see that day.

But from 9 to 10 a.m., a steady stream of riders followed the curve of Corporate Woods Drive, steering their motorcycles onto the lot.  Before long, the Foodbank parking lot looked like a bike show, with dozens of motorcycles on display.

Before we left our parking lot at 10:30 a.m., we counted 41 motorcycles of various designs, styles and colors. The best part was, the riders seemed to have really enjoyed finding a backpack that either matched – or contradicted – their bikes.

One biker dressed in leathers wore a menacing gray and black skull bandana on his face. He paired it with a bright pink Hello Kitty backpack stuffed with kid-friendly food donations.

Then there were leather-clad cyclists carrying red and blue Spiderman backpacks, boxes of Kool-Aid and even pink and purple backpacks filled with donations.

The highlight was a mystery rider who showed up in full motorcycle gear, but rode a bicycle! He pedaled up to the starting point with a backpack filled with food and claimed he would be getting a head start. Somehow he managed to make every stop on his bicycle.  Hmmm?


After leaving the Foodbank, the riders made stops at several establishments before ending later in the afternoon at the Hawg Pit restaurant in Grafton.

Each rider made a monetary donation or brought a backpack filled with kid-friendly food items for the St. Louis Area Foodbank. The Foodbank provides meals to 261,000 people a year in 26 counties in Missouri and Illinois. Of those individuals, 39% are children under the age of 18.

In all, the first Bikers for Backpacks Ride raised $1,000 in cash donations and brought in 49 backpacks filled with 839 pounds of easy-access, nutritional, kid-friendly food.

Helmets off to everyone who made donations, including Mary Beth Bergfeld and her group from UPS who donated 136 pounds and $25 to the ride!

All the food donations will be packed by volunteers and distributed over the next few weeks. In all, the food and funds donated during the ride equal about 4605 meals for hungry kids!

Keep your eyes and ears open for the 2013 ride and pass the word on to your friends.

Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. And please WATCH FOR MOTORCYCLES ON THE ROADS!

Ride safely!

    Trish Jenner is a volunteer coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank


Birds In Flight

Chef Wil Pelly, Chef de Cuisine at Diablitos Cantina, prepares empanadas at Urban Eats Cafe / Photo by Patrick Delhougne 

In the forward to Cause Marketing for Nonprofits: Partner for Purpose, Passion, and Profits, Carol Cone wrote:

Eighty-two percent of Americans say they have a more positive image of a business when it joins hands with a nonprofit, and 76 percent have a more positive image of the nonprofit when it partners with a company.


On February 23, the St. Louis Area Foodbank partnered with Small Plates 314, a local St. Louis event that aims to combine exciting culinary cuisine and networking.

The first gathering was held at Urban Eats Café, where a diverse group of people networked and learned how to prepare empanadas from Chef Wil Pelly, Chef de Cuisine at Diablitos Cantina.

Jeremy Stewart, Courtney Lytle and Lauren Salesman wanted to incorporate giving back into the event.

When all parties involved are in sync, cause marketing can be as natural and effective as a skein of Earth City geese. In this particular flight, the Foodbank achieved two primary objectives.

 First, by inviting me to speak at the event, Smallplates314 enabled the Foodbank to deliver on our mission to educate the public about hunger.

Also, halfway through the night, Lauren asked me to make a guest Tweet on her laptop.

I tweeted: “Chef Wil Pelly is putting on a great show, the crowd learned a little about @STLFoodbank and good eatin’ is right around the corner!”

By posting multiple messages on social media about the Foodbank, Smallplates314 raises awareness for hunger relief in the community.

Second, by donating a portion of the proceeds, Smallplates314 helps raise the resources necessary to feed hungry people in the community.

As a bonus, networking with entrepreneurs and young professionals set the stage for future partnerships.

You could say Smallplates314 helps the Foodbank to establish a positive image with 76 percent of St. Louisans, although it felt like 100 percent at the event.

Giving back also benefits Smallplates314 in two unique ways.

First, by channeling their resources (ticket sales, social media, speaking engagements) to fight hunger, Smallplates314 enhances their image in the community.

I asked one woman at the event, “How did you hear about tonight?”

She said, “In the e-newsletter from Sauce Magazine. I thought it sounded interesting, and I felt good about going knowing that it benefitted the Foodbank.”

Second, partnering with the Foodbank increases visibility for Smallplates314 — this blog being just one example of that!

It was a fun evening for networking and learning about food.

We are grateful giving back was also included in the event, and we look forward to partnering with more businesses during events like this one.

When we partner with a business — like birds in flight — all parties involved help each other reach a final destination.

See pictures from the event at –

    Patrick Delhougne is a development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.


Facilitators Of Gratitude

Sharea Rodgers shakes hands with Foodbank volunteer Ron Banister / Photo by Bethany Prange

When one hears the term “fundraising”, they may automatically think of dollars and cents.

But to me, fundraising and development at a nonprofit means much more than generating revenue to support hunger relief.

Part of our role as good stewards for our donors and supporters is to represent our organization in an open and engaging way. We share honest, compelling stories of the individuals we serve so that the public at large will understand our mission. We also work to maintain the trust of our donors by providing food assistance to those in need in the most efficient and prudent manner possible.

But above all, our task is to serve as “facilitators of gratitude.”

Last month, I attended the St. Louis Business Journal Women’s Conference. I was pleased to hear positive feedback and see the facial expressions on individuals who were familiar with the St. Louis Area Foodbank. Many of the attendees were very complimentary of the services we provide to the community.  Several individuals thanked me for the services the Foodbank provides for those struggling with hunger, while others said they had conducted food drives benefiting the Foodbank or volunteered their time to our programs.

Prior to the conference, I was already proud to be associated with the Foodbank.  As part of the development team and Foodbank staff, I have witnessed firsthand the impact of providing a meal to people in need.  Recipients of the food are very grateful for the assistance.  In fact, their comments include “thank you for the work you do!” and “I don’t know what I would do without your help.”
It is my job to pass that immense gratitude on to the donors, volunteers and supporters who make our work possible.

Like the clients receiving food assistance, we are grateful to our donors for financial support, volunteer service and overall generosity.  You continue to give through:
• Volunteer Service
• Annual Campaigns
• Special Events
• Planned Giving
• Direct Mail
• Matching Gifts
• Honor/Memorial/Tribute Gifts
• Community and Corporate Food Drives

I speak with donors on a daily basis who constantly thank us for the work we do.  Often, they express just as much gratitude for the Foodbank’s work as the clients themselves.

Hearing encouraging words, such as “thank you,” humbles and drives us to continue to work hard to earn the donors’ trust and to properly acknowledge their generosity by providing nutritional food to as many people in need as possible.

During FY11, your generosity enabled us to:

• Distribute 25 million pounds of food

• Provide 20.4 million meals

So, as donors express their gratitude to us for the services we provide, we in turn express our “thank you” to you, our volunteers, our supporters and clients. Without your help, many people would not be able to feed their families.

Thank you for your trust and support.

    Sharea Rodgers is a development coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Delivering The Veggies – Produce Row

Produce Row in St. Louis Photo by Shannon O’ Connor

As children, we learned about the importance of eating enough of each of the food groups – meat, grains, dairy, vegetables and fruit.

Now, in my role as the product sourcing coordinator for the St. Louis Area Foodbank, that basic lesson is even more valuable – particularly since it is my job to bring in food for families in need.

My department works daily to solicit food donations from several sources: federal (USDA) commodities; local retail stores such as Walmart or Target; national manufacturers such as Kraft Foods; and of course, individual food drives.

From these sources, we strive to bring in a balance of bread, meat, dairy products and fresh produce.

But while each food group is essential for well-rounded nutrition, veggies and fruits get the gold star!  Fresh fruits and vegetables are one of the most overlooked categories of food, yet the most beneficial to the human body for energy and good health.

Fortunately, St. Louis is blessed to have an outstanding produce market right in our backyard – Produce Row.

Produce Row was established in St. Louis nearly 60 years ago, alongside our mighty Mississippi River.

This massive market includes 20 different business-to-business food service companies that receive produce from local farmers, as well as farms across the country.   The fresh vegetables and fruit they receive are distributed to local restaurants, grocers and educational institutions.


The St. Louis Area Foodbank has had the honor over the last several years to partner with some of these businesses.  The donations may include any produce items that fall into these categories:

  • Bulk
  • Discontinued
  • Low weight
  • Close-to-code
  • Off spec
  • Make-ready

In this fast-paced, 24-7 operation, it is crucial that the businesses maintain strict guidelines. They must keep their product fresh and sellable according to warehouse space, availability and product shelf life.

If there are items that do not meet these guidelines – such as imperfectly-shaped fruit – the Foodbank can distribute this food immediately to our families in need so it can be eaten instead of thrown in the trash.

Over the last two years, I have had the good fortune to meet and work with the team at Sunfarm Foodservice #84 Produce Row, one of the largest businesses in the market.

Sunfarm landed their spot on Produce Row in 1991 and have been serving the area with their remarkable products ever since.   As one of our weekly local donors, they supply the Foodbank with any items that are obtainable for donation after their inventory check.

Last year, Sunfarm donated over 35,000 pounds to our organization. In just the first two months of this year, they have donated nearly 10,000 pounds of fresh produce to the Foodbank.

This week I visited Sunfarm at Produce Row as one of our Foodbank drivers, Dale Vandeven, made a produce pick up. This visit gave me the chance to gain further insight on what exactly made Sunfarm stand out from the rest.

As Dale loaded the truck with our pallet of bananas, lettuce and tomatoes, I made my usual rounds of “hellos” to the familiar and friendly faces in the warehouse.

Sunfarm President John Pollaci explained that their operation does far more than deliver basic produce to restaurants.

“Our client list runs anywhere from your neighborhood eatery or café to your finest restaurant and country club,” Pollaci says.  “We have the greatest accounts with fine dining services, which encompass our high quality products.  We also handle accounts with area schools and have recently established a fresh fruit and vegetable snack program with 15 St. Louis public schools.”

“We represent a business with expertise in specialty items,” says Anthony Parrino, warehouse associate.  “We carry items from imported white asparagus to Daikon sprouts to edible orchids and anything in between.  Some of the most rich and resourceful produce you will see comes from our facility.”

Sunfarm Foodservice provides their clients, the Foodbank and our community with a professional and supportive partnership that I hope will only continue to prosper.  Special thanks to all of our donors in the Foodbank network who contribute to the operation and success of our organization and its goal to feed hungry people.

    Shannon O’Connor is the product sourcing coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Little Helping Hands

Photo Reenactment / Photo by Bethany Prange

“Knock, knock.”

Trish, the St. Louis Area Foodbank volunteer coordinator, laughed as she tapped her knuckles on the door of my office.

“I have someone here who wants to make a donation,” she said with a smile.

I turned around in my chair and began to get up, but quickly realized I was already eye-to-eye with the donor — a sweet little girl of about 7. We’ll call her Charity.

Charity shyly handed me a heavy white envelope. Inside, nickels and dimes were Scotch-taped to loose-leaf paper.

A few weeks ago, when Charity learned she would be volunteering at the Foodbank, she started saving her hard-earned allowance.

By donating a portion of her allowance, Charity learned that caring and sacrifice go hand in hand — no matter what size the hands are.

All hard-working donors sacrifice a little to help their neighbors a lot, and they also trust in the Foodbank to make their sacrifice count.

Charity’s $1.25 enables the Foodbank to provide 5 meals to people in need. ($1=4 meals)

I didn’t perform cross multiplication for Charity to demonstrate the impact of her donation, but that is certainly something I do weekly to show how $1 can go a long way toward making a substantial difference.

Instead, I told Charity she had done something very nice, and then she gave me a hug.

    Patrick Delhougne is a development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.