Since 1975, the St. Louis Area Foodbank – a member of Feeding America – has provided food assistance to mothers, fathers, senior citizens and children in need. Over the years, the foodbank has grown to become the bi-state region’s largest non-profit food distribution charity. In 2017, the food bank distributed more than 43 million pounds of food to over 392,000 people throughout 26 counties in Missouri and Illinois.
“The St. Louis Area Foodbank works with a variety of sources to get food into the area, including farmers, manufacturers, grocery chains, the USDA and community food drives,” said Ryan Farmer, Director of Communications at St. Louis Area Foodbank.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 173,000 kids in St. Louis are at risk for hunger. Without the help of the St. Louis Area Foodbank, many of these children wouldn’t get the nutrition they need for healthy growth and development.
Unfortunately, farmers aren’t always able to sell everything they grow. But the St. Louis Area Foodbank partners with farmers to collect fresh produce that would otherwise be sent to the landfill or fed to livestock. Since the growing season in St. Louis is relatively short, the foodbank often looks to the coastal and southern states for produce, paying for the transportation fees and any costs to the farmer. This is typically the same produce that you’d find in local grocery stores--the farmer just wasn’t able to sell it.
“Thanks to the work of the St. Louis Area Foodbank and other Feeding America food banks around the country, we're getting that fresh produce into the hands of low-income families that may otherwise not have access to nutritious food.”
Ryan Farmer | Director of Communications, St. Louis Area Foodbank
To keep perishable food fresh and safe from the landfill, the foodbank has implemented rapid distribution programs. “We have also made significant changes over the years to our inventory control measures to ensure that we're getting food out quickly,” Farmer said.
On top of that, the Foodbank uses the FDA’s Food Extension List to educate families they serve, as well as local food pantries, kitchens and shelters, about sell-by dates. This knowledge helps keep edible food from being sent to the landfill when people mistakenly assume it’s gone bad.
“In regards to manufacturers and grocery stores, we pick up slightly damaged or close-to-date food that may have been thrown out in years past,” Farmer said. “In addition to non-perishable items, we also pick up day-old bread, bakery goods, salads and prepared sandwiches, along with meat that is at the sell-by date that we immediately freeze and then distribute.”
The Foodbank distributes inventory in a number of ways. About 25 percent of the food is picked up by partner agencies in St. Louis City and St. Louis County. Another 55 percent of the food is delivered by the Foodbank’s trucks to food pantries, shelters and more. The remaining 20 percent is picked up by partner agencies directly from the Foodbank’s retail affiliates.
“Our inventory is allocated for equitable distribution throughout our service territory,” Farmer explained. “Our agencies can order product online and we also manage a caseload of more than 13,000 boxes of food each month to be distributed to low-income senior citizens through a USDA program known as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP).”
To better serve the community, the St. Louis Area Foodbank keeps sustainability in mind. By implementing eco-friendly improvements to the warehouse and overall operation, the Foodbank was able to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent over the past five years. This not only benefits the environment, but also helps to reduce costs and feed more families in need.
With such a significant reduction to operating costs, the foodbank is now able to deliver an extra 840,000 meals to families in need.
A meal from The St. Louis Foodbank can go a long way for a struggling family. We’re happy to see food put to good use, instead of thrown in a dumpster.
This is part of a Dumpsters.com series highlighting sustainable organizations working to revitalize their communities. If you are in the St. Louis area, learn how you can make a donation to help families near you.