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Pantry Spotlight: Bread For Life

Bread for Life Food Pantry in Troy, MO, focuses on the needs of families, including children and seniors.

Bread for Life Food Pantry, located in Troy, Mo., has served residents in need from Lincoln County since 2003. It began as a mission of the Greater Troy Ministerial Alliance, who recognized the need for a community food pantry. Today, the pantry operates as an independent nonprofit organization, distributing food to clients every Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., except on the last Wednesday of the month, when hours are from 4 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The Salvation Army uses the Bread for Life facility each Tuesday morning from 9 a.m. until noon, assisting clients needing help with housing and utilities.

bread for life

Clients can come to the pantry once each month. Back in 2003, it served approximately 50 families per month. Today, 390 families on average are served each month. In 2015, the pantry worked with a total of 5,563 families; 34 percent of those receiving food are children 18 and younger.

Working Together to Feed More People

Seniors are also a significant focus for the pantry. Bread for Life partners with the Lincoln County Council on Aging (LCCOA) in many ways. Each month, the pantry’s delivery of product from the St. Louis Area Foodbank includes a pallet of produce for LCCOA. Their drivers come to the pantry and take these produce items to the ‘Nutrition Site’. In addition, Bread for Life partners with LCCOA on the ‘Senior Box’ project. Thirty clients per month receive a box of food from the pantry – the boxes are delivered by the Nutrition Site drivers. The thirty recipients are chosen by LCCOA and they are not pantry clients, but are identified as in need of food. The program will expand to 50 boxes within the next six months.

The pantry also shares product with LCCOA on a regular basis. “If we have extra bread or other perishable items that need to be distributed before the next pantry day, LCCOA accepts the product to use in their daily operation,” says Harriet Zuroweste, Bread for Life co-director. “These blended programs have been very helpful to both agencies.”

Building Lives Through Community

For many clients, the Bread for Life Food Pantry provides not only food, but also a sense of community. “We have clients who live alone and have no family in the area,” Zuroweste notes. “First, they may come to the pantry as a client. After a few visits, they begin to know the workers who they see every month. And then it is not unusual for them to ask about volunteering – and they  become a part of the pantry family. We are often told they look forward to Wednesdays and coming to work with familiar faces. The pantry becomes an anchor for them.”

Bread for Life has obtained food from the Foodbank for more than a decade. “When donors ask if we would rather have food donations or cash, we always tell them cash,” says Zuroweste. “Cash donations go a long way in securing produce, canned goods, pizzas, chicken, pasta and all kinds of staples from the Foodbank.”

 

All for Food Safety and Food Safety for All!

This summer, we’re distributing kits to ensure food safety is a top priority.

In 2014, we received a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health to purchase food safety items for our partner pantries. The items distributed included thermal blankets, a thermometer, and bungee cords. All of these items are meant to keep food the correct temperature while in transit from our facility or from our retail grocery store partners.

High Standards for an Important Cause

According to AIB (the American Institute of Baking) and Feeding America standards, these items should be used to safely handle food. We take food safety very seriously and are held to high standards to provide quality food for our community partners.

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Food safety kits like these will be distributed to all of our partner agencies by the end of July.

 

Getting the Job Done

Thanks to a generous donation from the Walmart Foundation, we were able to purchase and distribute these kits to our partner Illinois pantries this year. By the end of July, we will have distributed these kits to all of our partner pantries in Missouri and Illinois. We take these measures to ensure the food we distribute stays in the best condition possible, so it’s ready for a hungry family to take it home.

Feeding Kids this Summer

As summer begins, many children will not have enough to eat without school lunch and breakfast programs.

Most kids who receive free or reduced school lunches don’t receive summer meals to make up for those that they lose. One vital way to combat summer hunger is summer feeding sites. This year, we have seven partner summer feeding sites in Missouri and Illinois. These locations provide balanced meals for kids who need food throughout the summer.

We received a $5,000 Summer Meals Program Grant from Share Our Strength and the Illinois No Kid Hungry Campaign to help provide meals at these sites this summer. We’re grateful for the community support that allows us to feed more kids.

The easiest way to find a summer feeding site nearest you is by texting FOOD to 877 877. Once you text FOOD, you’ll be asked to send your street, city and zip code and will receive the locations and operating hours for sites closest to you. Please share this information with your friends and family to spread the word!

Most sites only require a child to be 18 years old or younger to receive meals, and some provide breakfast or dinner in addition to lunch.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository put together a video of the people who advocated to strengthen the summer feeding program in Illinois.

Partner Summer Feeding Sites

Illinois

Zion UCC

414 West Hanover

New Baden, IL 62265

5/25-8/12

Lunch- 11:30-1:00 PM


Madison Mt. Nebo

1634 7th St.

Madison, IL 62060

6/1-7/22

Breakfast- 9:00-10:00

Lunch- 12:00-1:00


Murphysboro SPIN

822 West Industrial Park Rd

Murphysboro, IL 62966

6/6-8/5

Lunch-12:00- 1:00


Sparta IMPACK

612 E. Harrison St.

Sparta, IL 62286

6/13-8/12

Lunch- 11:00-1:00


Murphysboro Youth & Rec

1818 Walnut Street

Murphysboro, IL 62966

6/15-7/29

Lunch-11:00-12:00

Dinner-4:00-5:00

Missouri

Trinity Church

3515 Shackelford

Florissant,MO  63031

6/8 – 8/9

Lunch: Noon – 1p.m.


God First Church

12025 Raymond Ave

Spanish Lake, MO 63138

6/8 – 8/9

Lunch: Noon – 1 p.m.

It’s My Turn to Give Back

When I was a kid, my family needed help and organizations like the Foodbank were there for us. Now it’s my turn to give back.

This past weekend, I participated in my second food fair with the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

FF_6

This time, I donated my time on behalf of the Friends of the Foodbank, a new group of professionals committed to volunteering and representing the Foodbank at community events.

The Foodbank partnered with one of their partner agencies, a church in Washington, Mo., to provide almost 20,000 pounds of food to more than 130 families in need. Read more

You Get What You Give – Victory Dream Center

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“He’s one of my brothers!”

A young boy shouted these words as he wrapped his arms around Pastor Nathan Cherry of Victory Dream Center in Carbondale, Ill.

He is just one of many children who attended the Victory Dream Center’s food distribution on a recent Saturday evening. To this little guy, Nathan and Victory are a part of his family.

After all, for the little boy’s family – and others like them – Victory is a comforting place where they can get the food they need.

It is clear that Nathan and his agency are succeeding in their mission to leave a positive impression in the community.

Nathan recently talked about his experiences with St. Louis Area Foodbank Agency Relations Coordinator Kate Hartman.

1. Please give me your name and the name of the agency where you volunteer. 

Nathan Cherry; Victory Dream Center in Carbondale, Ill.

2. When did you first become involved with this agency? 

I started at the Dream Center in 2003 and we began partnering with the St. Louis Area Foodbank in July 2010.

3. What prompted you to begin working or volunteering with this agency? 

“My parents started the church. I was immediately involved from the start and I knew I wanted to be in the ministry,” Nathan says. “After I graduated from college I came on full time and started managing most everything here.”

“In 2009, we started talking about expanding our outreach in the community. We really wanted to do something more for the people and thought food was the best option.  That was really the bottom line; we wanted to do more.”

4. How many people does your agency serve on an average month? 

We serve 1,000 families and 3,500 individuals.

5. How do you feel the St. Louis Area Foodbank affects the services you are able to provide your clients?  

“Oh, it’s everything,” Nathan says.  “If we didn’t have the St. Louis Area Foodbank we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing. Ninety-nine percent comes from the Foodbank.”

6. Do you feel the work you do is really making a difference in the lives of the people you serve? Can you tell me about an experience that made you feel you were making an impact?

“Definitely.  In the last three years we have a lot more people in the community that know about us because of what we do,” Nathan says.

“As for one specific testimony? I can think of a lot.  One that comes to mind is a single-parent family – a mother raising six kids.  We delivered some food to them, and then they started coming here.  Eventually, she started volunteering here, and she’s one of our most faithful volunteers.”

“A lot of people—when they start receiving—want to give.  This is a great way for them to give.  That’s exciting to see,” Nathan says.

7. In your time as a volunteer/staff member, what are the most significant changes you have seen? 

“Clearly, connecting with the St. Louis Area Foodbank has been the biggest change,” Nathan says. “The St. Louis Area Foodbank has put Victory Dream Center on the map.  We’re grateful to the staff.”

8. From your vantage point, what one thing would you like to see happen to improve the economic situation in America? 

“More of a connection between the upper and lower class — in the essence of charitable contributions,” Nathan says. “What I see, what I teach, and what I live, is whatever you give, you’re going to get.”

Kate_Hartman

Kate Hartman is an agency relations coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Fresh Beginnings – At One Time or Another, Everyone Needs a New Start

Transitional Housing

The St. Louis Foodbank operates a Transitional Housing Program for people moving from a local shelter into their own residence.

We know it’s hard to scrape together the funds to pay a month’s rent, not to mention the utility down payments, security fees, etc.

To help with those one time additional costs, we provide a 30-day supply of food and other household items. Everyone needs a little help at some point, or at least some guidance.

Judy and I created our own transitional housing program with our daughter. After graduating from Missouri State University, Shawn accepted a job as a travel director.

The position has taken Shawn to many exotic places, but it also required that she spend the vast majority of her time out of town. Therefore, there wasn’t much sense in moving her into an apartment.

Loving parents that Judy and I are, we told her she was welcome to live with us but she’d have to pay rent. The Finnegan family transitional housing program had two options.

Shawn’s first option was to pay $250 each month and her loving parents would thank her very much and spend it on meals, movies and entertainment. Her second option was to pay $500 each month and we would return the entire sum whenever she decided to move out.

Shawn paid us rent for three years before an overpowering urge to flee drove her out and now has her paying rent to complete strangers.

Looking back, I’m happy about two things. First, Shawn paid the higher sum. Second, Judy collected the monthly rent payments and dutifully put them in the bank. Eighteen months after moving out of her parents’ home, Shawn bought her own house with the down payment from our transitional housing program.

Judy and I are in an enviable position. We have college educations, we both work and we’re able to live within our means. We have one child who successfully navigated the tumultuous years from 16 to 25. That seems to be the decade when parents everywhere pray their children don’t make one really stupid decision that could forever change their lives for the worse.

Transitional Housing Family

We know that circumstances beyond our control happen every day. A serious illness, a car accident, a lost job – so many things could start a spiral down that suddenly gets out of control.

Shelters are full of people who fell into that downward spiral. They certainly never planned on being in a shelter.

I’m thankful the Foodbank’s Transitional Housing Program can be there to help these folks down on their luck; just as I’m thankful Judy and I were able to help Shawn.

Everyone – at one time or another – needs a chance for a new start…a fresh beginning.

 

 

Frank Finnegan
St. Louis Area Foodbank President and CEO Frank Finnegan first shared a version of this story in the March 2013 Tablesetter newsletter.

One Father’s Story Inspires a Commitment to Hunger Relief

Since I have worked at the St. Louis Area Foodbank for more than 15 years, there are countless moments that have truly made my job matter to me.

I was the hired in 1997 as the Foodbank’s first-ever communications coordinator. Right off the bat I knew I wanted to learn more about our member agencies and the clients they serve.

Visiting agencies and getting to know these individuals helped me solidify the message I was asking the community to hear. It worked – so I continued visiting agencies often. I still make agency visits to this day.

Over the years, I have met dozens of people who have inspired me in my nonprofit work at the Foodbank. But there is one moment in particular that always comes to the forefront in my mind.

I met Gene during a lunch-hour visit to a soup kitchen in St. Charles. Gene was a middle-aged man who stopped by the soup kitchen for a meal when he could get away from the jobsite long enough to eat.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. . .

“Jobsite? If he has a job, then why on earth is he at a soup kitchen?”

Here’s why: Gene worked in the construction business, a fact that was evident from his work clothes and the tape measure on his belt. Despite his job, this man had been in need of help for the two months since his wife left.

They were a family of four, Gene said, and seemingly happy, until “she just left” one day. The note explained that she was sorry, and that she was leaving to pursue another life with someone else.

Gene was floored. He had had no idea his wife was unhappy.

To make matters worse, not only did she leave Gene and her two children, she also took the modest funds the family had saved up in their joint checking account.

Gene, as most of us would, began to struggle trying to maintain family expenses. He said he realized he “needed some help after a few weeks.”

As I talked with Gene that day, he told me that he had yet to accept any offers of help from the agency’s food pantry.

He teared up a bit when he said, “I can still feed my kids. I don’t want anyone else taking care of my kids.”

I disagreed with Gene about his unwillingness to accept additional help, but as a father myself, I understood his point.

His income provided enough to maintain some expenses, but when there wasn’t enough money to go round, food was the first item to get cut.

Gene was struggling to feed his children, so, feeding himself became his lowest priority. Lunch at the soup kitchen was his lone meal of the day.

This lunch discussion with Gene has remained a vivid reminder to me why the Foodbank – and the work we do – is so very important. Until things could right themselves, his family needed someone willing to help.

Soup Kitchen

Photo: Feeding America“Across the nation, families in need rely on soup kitchens for a hot meal”

Gene is just one example of the more than 57,100 people helped each week by the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

As for Gene, he did eventually accept help for his kids through our partner agency’s pantry.

Fortunately, Gene ultimately got to a point where he no longer needed lunch from the soup kitchen.  I was happy to know that Gene was able to get back on his feet.

But, I’m equally as happy knowing that should the need arise again, the soup kitchen remains open for lunch.

 

Matt Dace
Matt Dace is the senior vice president at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

 

 

Agency Conference 2013

Agency Conference

Yesterday, more than 200 directors and staff from many of the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s 514 partner agencies participated in our annual conference.

Most of the Foodbank’s partner agencies are operated solely by dedicated volunteers, so this annual event gives these individuals the chance to learn about new ideas and best practices for running a nonprofit feeding program.

Representatives from our partner soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters and senior feeding programs attended educational sessions on:

  • Obama Care, the Affordable Care Act – How will it affect low-income families?
  • Social media – How can nonprofits make the most of social networking platforms?
  • The Farm Bill – How will it affect all Americans?
  • Illinois and Missouri USDA Training – Topics included USDA food distribution and discrimination policies.
  • SNAP Outreach and Advocacy – Ideas on ways to maximize participation in the food stamp program.
  • Retail Pickup Program – Guidelines for accepting food donated by retailers.
  • Raising Food and Funds – Information on best practices in food and fundraising.

Former Missouri Senator Joan Bray addressed the group just before lunch, presenting a keynote speech on the state of government in Missouri, and anticipated changes in nonprofit laws.

Jim Braun, partner with EMD Consulting Group, gave a compelling talk about the importance of investing in succession planning to ensure that nonprofits continue to thrive even during changes in management.

Chef David Frattini, chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in St. Louis, performed a cooking demonstration of a meal that was both healthy and affordable. Using many foods commonly donated to the Foodbank, Frattini prepared a minestrone soup.

To learn more the sessions offered to agencies yesterday, please view the following presentations.

S.N.A.P. Outreach Illinois

S.N.A.P. Outreach Missouri

Foods and Funds

USDA Training Illinois

Farm Bill and SNAP

Succession Planning

TEFAP Civil Rights

Retail Store Donation Program

Socially Necessary

Setting Up Your Agency’s Facebook Page

Federal Health Reform 2013

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

A Grateful Survivor – Giving Back for His Blessings

Charlie

Daisy and Duke, two white Bichons, scurry around the apartment, jumping on chairs and chasing toys.

Their owner, Charles “Charlie” Pringle, warns them to settle down, but even his sternest voice doesn’t seem to calm the pups – an excitable brother and sister he adopted from a shelter. Charlie, 60, can’t help but smile.

The trio lives in a handsome apartment in a senior complex in De Soto, Mo. The tall ceilings, modern appliances and antique décor suggest a luxurious lifestyle.

But in reality, most of Charlie’s most prized possessions were acquired earlier in his life, back when things were easier.

Charlie was born in Morgantown, W.V. His father worked in the coal mines there, but moved the family to Warren, Ohio, when Charlie was just two years old.

The kidney problems meant that Charlie wasn’t as big or as strong as the other boys his age. Growing up, he was frequently bullied by the other children.

At age 11, Charlie’s mother took him to a different doctor who announced that the boy would only live two more years. Seeking help, his parents sent him to the Cleveland Clinic. There, they determined that Charlie suffered from a hereditary kidney disease called Alport Syndrome.

Despite his illness, Charlie managed to graduate from high school and enroll at Kent State University, where he studied fine art.

Charlie moved to St. Louis, intending to finish his degree at St. Louis University. He first took a job as an assistant warehouse manager at Target, and later worked at Creve Coeur Camera.

In the early 1980s, Charlie was working at a small electronics and computer accessories company, when he got sick once more. He was forced to begin dialysis at Barnes Hospital.

“I would work all day and go on dialysis,” Charlie says. “I wouldn’t get out until 1 a.m. after dialysis.”

This routine went on for a year and a half before a kidney became available in 1989. He underwent the kidney transplant, receiving the kidney from a donor who also provided organs to four other patients.

Despite the odds, Charlie has been living with his kidney for 23 years. “Every day I get up and I thank God for being alive,” Charlie says.

Just a month after the transplant, Charlie was back at work. Mounting medical bills meant an ongoing fight with his insurance company.

Ultimately, he was fired because the small company could not afford to insure him.

Charlie sent out 285 resumes for 200 different jobs, but each time he came in for an interview, he had to fill out his health history – a disclosure that often meant he was passed over.

“I was out of work for almost a year,” Charlie says. “I had to use charge cards to survive.”

Even when he got a new job as a sales consultant at an appliance parts center, the looming debt was overwhelming.

During his time at the parts center, Charlie worked with some of the company’s biggest clients. For 14 years, he devoted his life to the company until one day, he was abruptly let go because of his pre-existing health condition.

The sudden job loss sent Charlie into a tailspin of despair. Physical and emotional problems were overwhelming.

In 2001, his doctor demanded that Charlie stop trying to find a job. He filed for disability, but still hoped to find work.

His 401K and savings were depleted, and it took years for his disability payments to come through.

Charlie eventually moved to a place in the country in De Soto. There, while he struggled to pay medical bills with little income, he was able to rely on the De Soto Food Pantry for food assistance. He insisted on volunteering at the pantry to earn his keep.

“I don’t want to just come in and get it,” Charlie says. “I take care of the USDA when it comes in.”

When the bills became too much and he began to fall due to neuropathy in his legs, Charlie moved to the senior apartments in De Soto.

“I’m able to afford the rent and the utilities,” Charlie says.

He continues to spend $1,300 a month on medications for his kidney disease, and thousands more on trips to the doctors in St. Louis, lab work and tests. Thankfully, he does receive some help from the Missouri Kidney Foundation.

“With the government it is really scary to not know of what changes might occur,” Charlie says. “With the help and kindness of the Disability Resource Association (DRA) they try to make your life not so bad.”

Charlie has cut everything extra from his life – no magazines, no eating out, no using gas to visit friends. He receives $16 in food stamps a month, and for most of his other food, relies on the De Soto Food Pantry.

He gets most of his clothes from thrift stores and often shares food with his neighbors at the senior apartments to make it stretch.

Like most of the people who get food at the pantry, Charlie is immensely grateful.

“It’s made me realize that there are a lot of people out there who are in need,” Charlie says.

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

SNAP Outreach – What’s In Store For 2013?

SNAP_OUTREACH

With the start of another new year, we all look for new ways to transform ourselves and our lives. Some make resolutions to lose weight, while others try to kick a habit they wish they had never started.

For me, I look forward to the beginning of a new year as a time to make improvements, in both my personal or professional life.

Professionally, I am part of the agency relations department at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. Right now, our department is going through its’ own transformation, particularly for those of us who deal with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

The Foodbank’s service territory encompasses 14 counties in Missouri and 12 counties in Illinois. In 2012, we were only able to provide SNAP outreach assistance to clients at our partner agencies in our Illinois counties.

That meant thousands of clients in Missouri were left to navigate their own way through the sometimes complicated process of applying for SNAP.

But now, with the start of 2013, we will be able to provide SNAP assistance to all clients visiting one of our more than 500 partner agencies in both Illinois and Missouri.

This new ability to provide SNAP assistance to Missouri clients seeking food assistance means a great deal to families in need. Many of these families never had the opportunity or the means to apply for SNAP themselves.

Many were not able to make it to their local Illinois Department of Human Services office or Missouri Department of Social Services, the sites where they can apply for SNAP.

For some rural clients, there is no local aid office where they can receive assistance. Even if there is an office in a neighboring county, many of our clients do not have the transportation – or gas money – to get there.

Many clients don’t even know they are eligible for SNAP, and some need that extra nudge to look into additional assistance for their families.

Now that we’re able to provide SNAP assistance in both states, the Foodbank is expanding our SNAP outreach efforts to senior facilities.

We will now visit senior apartments and centers where we provide supplemental boxes of food to low-income seniors through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP).

Now, not only will be able to provide almost 10,000 seniors with a much-needed box of food, but we will be able to assist them with food stamp applications. We can help them ensure they are utilizing all food assistance programs available to them.

We are very excited about these new opportunities to help our clients in need. This year will be a great one at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. I hope you will continue supporting us along the way as we continue to fight hunger in our community.

For SNAP assistance in Missouri email Suzi Seeker at sseeker@stlfoodbank.org; in Illinois, contact Andrea Hale at ahale@stlfoodbank.org.

Andrea Hale

Andrea Hale is the SNAP Outreach Coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.