The three words you can say to a child in August to trigger an emotional reaction have got to be- “BACK TO SCHOOL”! Some love the idea of getting back into the classroom, seeing their friends, school supply shopping, and taking those first day pictures. For others, it’s enough to make them not want to get out of bed in the morning!

Ironically, the reaction I see from parents also varies dramatically. Many are overjoyed that their children are back in school (only so they can learn more, of course!) but for far too many families in our region, the thought of having to get their students ready for the new school year is a source of tremendous stress and anxiety. From having to get school physicals to buying new shoes, figuring out schedules to budgeting for a school supply list that is 2 pages long – going back to school can be daunting.

Here at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, we are working hard to alleviate as many concerns as possible and help ensure that students and their families are set up for success this year.

First, we are thrilled to announce the expansion of our School Market Program. This program was just an idea a few years ago, that began by focusing on reducing barriers families face to accessing nutritious foods while increasing school attendance and positive outcomes for our kiddos. This year we will open nine more beautiful, vibrant markets taking our total number of school markets to 34 locations on both sides of the river. These markets provide food and resources to students and their families at no cost to them. We love being able to see the reactions of students and families to healthy, nutritious foods and other resources in a clean, safe, dignified environment that truly looks like a grocery store right in their school.

Next, we are excited to join the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday August 20 as a participant in their “Redbird Rookies” program, helping participants from across the bi-state area that participate in their baseball and softball programs, get ready for school. From medical checkups and vaccinations to school supplies and nutritious foods and educational materials – these kiddos will be ready to hit a home run when that school bell rings.

We also will continue to work with our partners at the United Way and the American Red Cross helping families impacted by the recent flooding, as they look to rebuild and recover from these devastating storms. Although many times the Foodbank is seen leading efforts in communities, we also understand and respect the fact, that sometimes the best way we can help our communities is to be a great supporting partner to others with greater experience in areas, such as disaster relief. We are honored and humbled to partner with these organizations across the region.

We are committed to our students and families across the bi-state region and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure everyone is ready to make the grade this school year! We are looking forward to earning high marks together this year. Thank you for your continued support and partnership for the St. Louis Area Foodbank!