Hunger | St. Louis Public Radio


A Jennings child expresses disappointment about the lack of chocolate milk options on the first day of summer school. Operation Food Search, a regional food bank, will supply meals to a thousand students at the north St. Louis County school district this
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Federal money meant to help low-income families with food costs while kids were home from school this spring is reaching just 60% of Missouri’s eligible families.

The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer is a $5.40 a day allocation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that usually goes to high-poverty schools to feed their students. Instead this spring the P-EBT money was sent directly to families across the country as a one-time check of up to $302.

Children leave Pershing Elementary School on March 26, 2020, after picking up lunch. Some districts in the state have cut back student meal services after employees got sick.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Food service employees are among the few workers in school districts physically reporting for work every day during the pandemic lockdowns, joining front-line efforts to keep needy kids fed and safe.

“Our jobs are not necessarily monetarily driven, they’re more mission-driven,” said Irene Wan, director of Maplewood Richmond Heights School District’s food service division. “We’re here to serve people, we’re here to serve our families.”

Close to 740,000 Missourians used the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on a monthly basis in 2018, according to the Food Research and Action Center.
Flickr | The Consumerist .

There are hundreds of thousands of Missouri families that don’t know where their next meal is coming from. 

Despite progress, the state is still higher than the national average for food insecurity. 

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows Missouri has improved hunger levels throughout the state. Compared to one year ago, levels are down almost one full percentage point. However, 11.7% is the national average of food insecurity, and Missouri sits at 12%

Malte Mueller | NPR

Nearly one-quarter of St. Louis city residents have trouble putting food on the table — and for some, it’s a source of secret shame. 

Embarrassment and fear can keep parents from asking for help, according to research from St. Louis University. Based on a series of in-depth interviews with parents and caregivers, researchers have pinpointed ways pediatricians can connect with families experiencing food insecurity.

Champale Anderson is the founder of Champ's Teardrops.

For the past five years, Champale Anderson has distributed free snack bags to kids in her neighborhood who would otherwise go hungry.

“Sometimes that snack is the only thing the kids have that evening,” she said. “They get a bag at 3 p.m., and they’re back by 7 p.m. for more.”

Calls for volunteers to plant or deliver produce usually draw more than a dozen people at a time to the Feed the People Garden, seen here in a 2018 photo..
Provided | Ro Kicker

Ro Kicker realized a few years ago that keeping up with a large backyard was very time-consuming.

Last spring, Kicker all but parked the lawnmower, and with the help of volunteers, began transforming the Bevo neighborhood yard into a vegetable garden. They named it the Feed the People Garden Project to reflect its mission: giving away food.

This spring, the garden area will double in size to include a small orchard. But one thing that isn’t changing is the garden’s reliance on the honor system.

Nov. 19, 2018 at Operation Food Search: Andrew Glantz, CEO GiftAMeal and food bank manager Mark Taylor check bags for weekend meal program.
Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

As many families prepare for the annual Thanksgiving feast, not everyone has the opportunity to sit down to a traditional meal on Thursday, or any other day of the week. The statistics about food insecurity — hunger — in our region are stark.

“Missouri is one of the hungriest states in the country,” said Mark Taylor at Operation Food Search, a food bank that distributes 200,000 meals a month in St. Louis and 31 surrounding counties in Missouri and Illinois.

Jeanette Mott Oxford and Leslie Yoffie discussed hunger in the St. Louis reigon with St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Wednesday.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

It may be hard to believe, but some 42.2 million Americans go hungry each day. That’s more than one in eight people in the country. That’s according to Michelle Stuffmann, director of outreach and communications for MAZON, a Jewish Response to Hunger, whose exhibit is slated to travel to St. Louis in July.

Sam Johnson, left, assists a visitor at the food pantry he manages for St. Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist Church, in north St. Louis.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

With Thanksgiving approaching, food and generosity are on people’s minds. That can be both a blessing and a challenge for St. Louis area food pantries.

Between the numerous food drives and the holiday spirit, the regions’ two main charitable food distribution centers receive a lot of donations in November and December.

Local children eat the meal they got from Operation Food Search's mobile food truck. The free meal program makes sure kids who rely on free and reduced-price school meals get food during the summer months.
Susan Gregory | Operation Food Search

New food trucks rolling down St. Louis streets this summer are not selling tacos or burgers, but instead are bringing free meals to hungry kids. 

A truck from the St. Louis Area Food Bank makes a delivery at a rural southern Illinois church that was holding a food fair for low-income residents.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon | 2010 File photo

  • Cans of soup.
  • Diapers.
  • Cash to buy gas to keep the trucks running.

The holiday wish list for St. Louis agencies that assist the hungry is long and never-ending because what comes in, soon goes out -- and the shelves need to be filled again.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

It takes just a moment to hand a child a sack lunch, but it is THE moment -- the one that matters – for the volunteers with Twigs, a program that feeds children from financially struggling families in the summertime in Granite City.

You’ll find the volunteers in their bright yellow shirts at 11 designated spots -- street corners, parks and churches -- from 11:30 to 12:30, Monday through Friday, rain or shine, starting the day after school lets out for summer vacation and until it opens again.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis Public Library has renewed a popular program for forgiving overdue book fines.

All through July, adult card holders with late fines can pay with food. Every can or box brought in will knock a dollar off of their fines up to $25. The food goes to the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

The St. Louis Public Library started Food For Fines in 2008. The library's communications coordinator John Koniak said they’ve been amazed at the reaction.

(via flickr/Victor Bezrukov)

While the holidays mean an abundance of food for many of us, a rising percentage of Missourians worry about whether they’ll have enough food.

Based on 2010 data, 837,056 Missourians are not sure whether they will have sufficient food for the month.

Of those residents, 343,253 will likely skip meals or serve smaller portions to stretch food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls these measures of “food insecurity” and “very low food insecurity.”

(via Flikr/NAVFAC)

According to a report released in September by the University of Missouri-Columbia, the percent of people who have inadequate access to food rose more in Missouri than in any other state in the nation from 2000 to 2010.

Approximately 1.3 million Missourians are currently classified as "food insecure." About 400,000 Missourians experience hunger.

World Food Day Observed In St. Louis

Oct 11, 2013
Erin Williams / St. Louis Public Radio

Students and workers from several schools and businesses assembled at John Burroughs School to assemble food packages for people in need in the country of Tanzania and St. Louis city today, as part of an event held by nonprofit St. Louis World Food Day

The event was held in honor of World Food Day, which was created by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. The cause is being led by Don Soffer, a high school senior at John Burroughs. The 17-year-old is trying to both alleviate hunger and change how others think about it. 

Tim Lloyd/St. Louis Public Radio

A report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows the number of Missouri households threatened by hunger has grown over the past three years.

While the national average shows 14.7 percent of American homes had low or very low food security between 2010 and 2012, Missouri's average is 16.7 percent, or about one out of six households.  That's up from 15 percent during the 2007-2009 survey period.  Glenn Koenen is Hunger Task Force Chair for the Missouri Association for Social Welfare.

(Photo Courtesy: Neighborhood Houses)

When settlement houses were founded in the United States in the late 19th century, the idea was for educated middle-class or upper-class individuals to settle in impoverished areas, and through their influence and resources help lift their neighbors out of poverty.

Perhaps the most famous American Settlement House was Chicago's  Hull House, founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Star in 1889.

Kate Antonacci
Provided by Panera

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Three years after Panera Bread launched an innovative social experiment to help feed hungry Americans, the Saint Louis Bread Co.’s nonprofit café in downtown Clayton remains a work in progress, says Kate Antonacci, who directs the corporate initiative.

The bottom line is that the doors remain open, and Panera remains committed to the endeavor, she said.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Winter weather has stretched this year’s chili-eating season into spring. But even after temperatures warm up, chili will continue as a good choice for philanthropists, and those struggling to find enough to eat.

Flickr | USACEpublicaffairs | file photo

The number of people who do not have enough food in the United States is a serious problem.

Information from the United States Department of Agriculture in 2011 shows:

  • 50.1 million people in the United States live in food insecure households
  • 33.5 million are adults
  • 16.7 million are children
  • 14.9% of all U.S. households are food insecure

Host Don Marsh talked with guests about the food crisis nationally as well as locally.

His guests were:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 17, 2013 - If not for a nearby food pantry, Laura Craig of Valley Park says that she and her two daughters would run out of food by the end of every month.

Craig is among nearly 1 million Missourians who received federally funded food stamps in November. To stretch those benefits, Craig says she depends on the nearby Circle of Concern food pantry, where once a month she receives a week’s supply of canned and packaged foods, frozen meats and fresh produce. The food pantry serves more than 2,200 people each month in western St. Louis County.

(via Facebook/The Bridge St. Louis)

On the last Sunday in June, The Bridge – a social service agency operated out of Centenary United Methodist Church in downtown St. Louis – served its 750,000th  meal.

Volunteers dished out just over 6,000 meals in 2006, the first year The Bridge was open. Last year, more than 171,000 people accepted a free hot meal.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann sat down with Kathleen Wilder, the pastor at Centenary and the executive director of The Bridge, to reflect on what it means that so many people are in need.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 20, 2011 - The hungry in East St. Louis are in "survival mode," according to community service leaders and residents who attended a Monday hearing before the newly formed Illinois Commission to End Hunger.

Hunger doesn't take a holiday

Dec 27, 2010
Close to 740,000 Missourians used SNAP on a monthly basis in 2018.
Flickr Creative Commons user Victim Public


As many Missourians wrap up a weekend marked by celebration and plenty, somewhere near 16% of the state's population struggles with food insecurity.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 12, 2009 - U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed an audience of businesspeople, professors, and students at Saint Louis University today. Entitled “Solving the World’s Food and Hunger Problems,” his speech presented Ban’s vision for confronting the problems surrounding a worldwide rise in food prices.

“We are living in an interdependent global village,” he said. By allowing the crisis to continue, the secretary general believes it will compound the negative effects of other crises.

Commentary: Food for all: a tough order, but a noble goal

Nov 25, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 25, 2008 - Thanksgiving 2008, in the midst of an economic downturn, reminds us to remember our many blessings. Among mine has been the opportunity to work in company with dedicated friends and colleagues for causes in which I believe. I will mention two.

Volunteers pack up meals to be delivered to seniors at the Carondelet Senior Center in south St. Louis. 2008. 200 pixels
Amelia Flood | St. Louis Beacon archive

This post first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 13, 2008 - They call them "meal holidays" or "dark days."

As costs have risen faster than funding, some social service agencies are facing tough decisions about providing meals for the senior citizens who rely on them. Others are looking for ways to keep afloat as demands for help multiply faster than the dollars coming into their coffers.