When we were kids, my younger brother was a family legend.
Even though he was pretty scrawny until high school football came around, that kid could eat his body weight in food.
My mom was constantly amazed at how quickly an entire pantry full of food would disappear.
She bought in bulk and we regularly went to restaurants that offered buffets because that was the only way to keep my brother full.
Clearly, he was a growing boy. He wound up being over six feet tall.
It appears he got his massive appetite honest. My mom frequently recalls the time she first cooked for my dad’s family. She swears she cooked 10 pounds of mashed potatoes for his crew of six nephews, and it didn’t even make it around the dinner table once!
Luckily for us, my family had the ability to pay for enough food to keep all our big eaters fed.
When I think of how much extra food my parents had to buy to feed us three meals a day in the summer, I often wonder how a low-income family could possibly do it.
Families who rely on the free or reduced school lunch program during the school year are often barely able to provide their kids one meal a day. In the state of Missouri, over 40% of children utilize school lunches.
When summer hits, these families must make huge sacrifices to give their “growing kids” the basics of three meals a day. Some parents skip meals themselves to make sure their kids eat while some skimp on other necessities to buy food. Others are forced to turn to agencies like the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
Luckily, we are here to help. But we can’t do it alone.
Since this event started, the food drive has collected more than $7,600 and 24,800 pound of food items; enabling the Foodbank to distribute over 48,000 meals to our area’s needy families.
In the heat of the summer, this food drive helps the Foodbank keep up with higher demand.
But without support from you – a member of our community – none of this would be possible. Here’s how you can help local families in need this summer:
Host a food and funds drive at your business, church or home.
Donate any non-perishable items at any of the Fresh 102.5 live broadcast events:
o 12 to 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 24 at the Central West End Straub’s
o 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 25 at the Clayton Straub’s
o 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, July 26 at the Town & Country Straub’s
o 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 29 at the Webster Groves Straub’s
Encourage your co-workers to work together for a great cause! You can register your workplace today to contribute a group donation of at least 102 canned food items for pick-up. Fill out the form here and Fresh 102.5 will contact you within one week to set up a convenient pick-up time for your office.
Bring out your holiday generosity early and help keep a child from going hungry for the rest of the summer.
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
Volunteers at the Clayton post office sort donated items collected during the Stamp Out Hunger food drive / Photo by Ryan Farmer
If you walked through the Volunteer Center at the St. Louis Area Foodbank today, you’d see boxes flying through the air and cans sliding across metal tables.
Volunteers are busily sorting every type of food imaginable, from macaroni and cheese to grape juice.
It’s a flurry of activity.
This buzz of excitement is the midway stage for the food collected last Saturday, May 12, 2012 during the national Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
Soon, the very food being sorted at the Foodbank today will be put into the hands of families in need, right here in the bi-state region.
These families rely on the food collected at major food drives like Stamp Out Hunger, also known as the Letter Carrier food drive.
Stamp Out Hunger, now in its’ 20th year, required a massive coordination of volunteers, staff and donors. It’s the collaboration of hundreds of individuals that make these major food drives a success, year after year.
And in the St. Louis region, we couldn’t be more proud of the generous and enthusiastic people who came together to collect, sort and deliver the food.
So far, the results are astounding – our preliminary results show 196,175 pounds of food collected in St. Louis city and county alone!
At many of the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s hub sites – post offices where Foodbank staff and volunteers are stationed to sort food as it comes in – we saw some great moments of generosity.
At the Affton Post Office, two volunteers drove all the way from Collinsville, Ill. These amazing volunteers served as route workers, meaning they used their own cars to follow the letter carriers along their routes in Affton to help pick up food.
“I felt that was going above and beyond,” says Casey Milton, product donations coordinator for the St. Louis Area Foodbank. “They said, ‘we wanted to do something.’ Since there was nothing closer to home they chose Affton.”
At the South County Post Office, several letter carriers returned from their routes and jumped in to volunteer.
“Even though they put in extra time and effort collecting and loading heavy bags of canned goods along their routes, they still volunteered their time afterwards to helping us sort the food,” says Bethany Prange, Foodbank communications coordinator. “That showed commitment to the cause.”
Staff and volunteers from Foodbank partner agencies, which include food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens throughout the bi-state region, also volunteered their Saturday to sorting hundreds of cans and boxes of food!
Without the hard work of each individual who contributed to the effort, Stamp Out Hunger would not be the successful food drive it remains year after year.
Even more, this food drive could not exist without the generosity of residents who faithfully put out their donations for the letter carriers to collect.
Foodbank employee Kate Hartman carries a bin of food brought back to the post office by route volunteers / Photo by Bethany Prange
Calling all volunteers! Calling all volunteers! We need your help!
Stamp Out Hunger, the annual National Letter Carrier’s Food Drive, is Saturday, May 12, 2012, and we still need volunteers!
This is no ordinary volunteer gig! For one day, you will be helping to feed the thousands of individuals struggling with food insecurity in the bi-state region. Plus, you will be performing a great service for your local U.S. Postal Service letter carriers.
Many people don’t realize that during Stamp Out Hunger, it is solely up to the letter carriers to pick up the donated foods left on porches and next to mail boxes across the country. As you can imagine, this amounts to thousands upon thousands of pounds of food that need to be lifted and carried to mail trucks up and down the streets of our cities and towns.
Our letter carriers generously donate their time and energy to picking up the donated food, but would certainly appreciate any extra “hands for helping.” In the immediate St. Louis metro region alone, the St. Louis Area Foodbank has several locations where you can donate a few hours of your time to this project.
Now, we know this work sounds hard. It is. But it is also a lot of fun and very rewarding – you get to see tangible results of your work. You’ll be picking up and sorting food donated by your fellow St. Louisans and helping it get to the Foodbank, where it will go straight to those who need it most.
As an added bonus, you’ll receive a free t-shirt and lunch!
On May 12, we have openings for both route and dock workers.
Route volunteers duties:
• Follow the mail carrier to the beginning of their mail route and park your vehicle
• Walk up and down the designated streets of the mail route, collecting the bags of food
• Carry the bags of donated food back to the carrier’s mail truck
• Walk neighborhood streets, looking for signs of donated food on porches, in paper or plastic bags and/or hanging from their mailboxes.
The route volunteers are essential in lighting the load on our letter carriers.
“By having a volunteer pick up donated food from customers takes a huge weight off our letter carriers shoulders and is deeply appreciated,” says Bob Rapisardo, Vice President/Financial Secretary of the National Association of Letter Carriers – Branch 343.
In addition to the route volunteers, we also need dock workers. At each designated Post Office location, the letter carriers rely on these volunteers to quickly unload and sort the food.
Dock worker duties:
• Choose a Post Office location and meet there at the designated time
• Unload bags of food being dropped off at the loading docks by the Letter Carriers
• Sort and load the food into large cardboard boxes that will then be transported by Foodbank drivers
Even if you are unable to volunteer on May 12, you can still help by placing a bag of non-perishable food items around your mail box. Once the food is picked up from the houses it is taken back to a nearby postal site, sorted and loaded on to a Foodbank vehicle.
The food will be distributed to our partner agencies – food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters – on Monday morning! The community is one of the major factors in making this food drive a success. So please get involved and give back to your neighbors in need!
Casey Milton is the food donations coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
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!
Trish Jenner is a volunteer coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank
St. Louis Area Foodbank Communications Coordinator, Ryan Farmer, takes the band Edens Edge on a tour of the Foodbank / Photo by Bethany Prange
If you haven’t yet heard of rising country music group Edens Edge, you will soon.
The trio will be opening for Rascal Flatts on tour this summer, and their self-titled album is available on Itunes. Their song “Amen” and accompanying video is a modern country hit in the making.
But if you need one more reason to love this group of talented young musicians…
Yesterday, the members of Edens Edge – Hannah Blaylock, Dean Berner, and Cherrill Green – joined enthusiastic volunteers from Sam’s Club to pack boxes and load food donations onto a truck bound for St. Louis Area Foodbank.
Edens Edge came to St. Louis to help Sam’s Club and General Mills promote their new hunger relief campaign, Outnumber Hunger.
When St. Louis area residents purchase General Mills products and enter a code on the back at www.outnumberhunger.com, Feeding America is able to purchase five meals for St. Louis Area Foodbank!
While visiting St. Louis, Hannah, Dean and Cherrill came to the Foodbank to help unload the truck of food donations. They took a tour of the Foodbank and were eager to learn how to help families struggling with hunger in the bi-state region.
Thank you to Edens Edge, Big Machine Label Group, General Mills, Sam’s Club and Feeding America for helping feed people in need.
Bethany Prange is the Communications Coordinator for the St. Louis Area Foodbank
The St. Louis Area Foodbank’s Most Interesting Food Donations Wall of Fame / Photo by Bethany Prange
Remember the Swedish Chef from the Muppets?
Apparently that guy had his own cereal in the 1980s.
It was called Croonchy Stars. The bright orange box says funny stuff like “it’s cinnamonnamony” and “no artificial colors; no doorknobs.”
Awesome is the only word for it.
So how do we Foodbankers know so much about this 1980s cereal, you ask?
Well, we are the proud owners of our very own 1989 box of Croonchy Stars.
The Croonchy Stars sits on our Most Interesting Food Donations Wall of Fame. The Stars made the wall not just because of the Swedish Chef’s cool factor, but also because we got that 1989 box of cereal from a food drive in 2011 – a wee bit past when it would be safe to eat it.
Trish Jenner, one of our volunteer coordinators here at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, has been collecting a few of the most unique – and oldest – items donated in food drives.
Now, do not get us wrong. We are grateful for every single item donated to our families in need. Foodbank staff and volunteers work hard every day to make sure that the donated food we receive is sorted and repackaged.
Every piece of food that meets food safety guidelines – and most of our donations do – gets eaten by someone who needs it.
However, once in awhile, we stumble across a food drive item that has been in the back of someone’s pantry a wee bit too long. For example, the Croonchy Stars share space on the Wall of Fame with a can of Campbell’s Creamy Spinach Soup from 1988.
While that can of soup was also a recent donation, we still appreciate the effort and the generosity of the donor. We realize that may have been all they had to give.
So why, then, do we keep our Wall of Fame findings?
Well, first, because they are fascinating. The Green Giant Kidney Beans and Freshlike Corn cans from the mid-1990s look almost as new as if you’d bought them yesterday!
And second, because humor is good for the soul. Take the can marked simply, “chicken” from 1995. It’s an entire, one-pound, ready-to-eat, boneless chicken in a can.
So. Many. Questions.
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator for the St. Louis Area Foodbank