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Economy & Business

St. Louis Area Food Pantries Provide Food To More Families During Coronavirus Pandemic

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis hosted its 23rd annual turkey drive at Old Jameston Mall in Florrisant on Tuesday. The group served over 6,000 families who were in need of a Thanksgiving Day meal.
The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis
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The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis hosted its 23rd annual turkey drive at Old Jameston Mall in Florrisant on Tuesday. The group served over 6,000 families who were in need of a Thanksgiving Day meal.

As businesses continue to shutter and unemployment rises, more people across the St. Louis region are worried about where their next meal will come from.

To help meet the need, food pantries and other organizations that provide food have ramped up their distribution efforts this holiday season.

Directors at the St. Louis Area Foodbank and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis said they are seeing a steep increase in the demand for food. Many people across the region are lining up in distribution center lines for the first time because they have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

The St. Louis Area Foodbank is distributing about 5 million meals a month in the St. Louis region, up from the nearly 3.1 million meals it distributed before the pandemic, said Meredith Knopp, president and CEO of the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Volunteers and team members from the St. Louis Area Foodbank distributed meals in 10 different locations across the region  to help meet the increased demand for food on Tuesday. The organization distributed about 400 turkeys and holiday meal boxes in downtown St. Louis to families in need.
The St. Louis Area Foodbank
Volunteers and team members from the St. Louis Area Foodbank distributed meals in 10 different locations across the region on Tuesday to help meet the increased demand for food. The organization distributed about 400 turkeys and holiday meal boxes in downtown St. Louis to families in need.

“We're seeing it in our metro and our rural areas,” Knopp said of the increased need. “There's no one who is exempt from it, and there's so many people who are literally looking to put food on the table this holiday season for the first time.”

Knopp said people who once had their own successful businesses or worked for large corporations are now contemplating whether to pay bills or put food on the table. She also said people who are volunteering to help hand out food are in turn lining up to receive food assistance.

Social service organizations have been providing meals and household goods for families throughout the pandemic, but the increased need for meals is now the most common request from people in the region, said Michael McMillan, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

“When you look at what has transpired over the past nine months and the economic devastation and uncertainty about the future, so many individuals have come through our lines,” McMillan said. “And so when you look at the inability to go back and get a position in the industry that you worked in for so, so many years, it really creates an economic instability and insecurity for the future, which then turns into a food insecurity for families as well, especially impacting children.”

The Urban League hosted its 23rd annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway drive on Tuesday. It provided food, face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to 6,000 families this Thanksgiving. Last year, the organization helped 2,000 families.

McMillan said the organization requested more donations from sponsors this year to give people a sense of normalcy.

“When you look at the middle class families that were previously doing very well and had job security and benefits and so many other things that we all take for granted in this country, just in February, then you will see a very different face of poverty that has come about because of the pandemic,” McMillan said.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist.

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