Sharing blessings in Camden County

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On an especially hot day in July, Al and his cousin Toby sat in a vehicle while waiting for their turn to go through the line at a Mobile Pantry in Camden County.

Al, a former lawn care specialist, did not balk at the heat, saying he would rather be cutting grass in the near triple digit weather.

“I miss physical labor,” he said. “I loved long hours of mowing and hauling hay.”

Al has slowed down now and, having been self employed, lives on limited finances. Toby has a similar story - he worked construction jobs around the country before returning to his home to be closer to family.

The two ride together to the Camden County Mobile Pantry at Church of Osage Hills in Osage Beach on the second Friday of each month. In July, the two were thrilled to receive fresh watermelons, potatoes, apples and eggs. 

“It’s helping out a lot on groceries,” Al said. “Me and my wife are on a fixed income.”

Toby is quick to thank those who make the pantry possible. 

“It is a blessing,” he said. “God bless you.”

Greenhouse to share fresh produce in Phelps County

A greenhouse in Phelps County will increase the amount of fresh vegetables distributed to clients there.

A greenhouse in Phelps County will increase the amount of fresh vegetables distributed to clients there.

A greenhouse in rural Phelps County in The Food Bank’s southern region will now help provide fresh produce to clients in need at agencies in the area.

Earlier this year, The Food Bank staff and Ramona Rinehart from the Saint James Caring Center harvested more than 250 pounds of cabbage, beets, radishes and kale. In the future, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini will be added to the offerings. The greenhouse is the latest creative partnership The Food Bank has entered in an effort to get foods that encourage good health into the hands of those in need.

That mission aligns with Feeding America’s newly announced commitment to increase access to healthy food options. Some of the nation’s most prevalent health issues, illnesses such as obesity, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, are directly related to unhealthy diets. That is especially problematic for the one in six adults who face food insecurity. The problem is multi-faceted. Those living on fixed incomes have to make tough budget decisions, and energy-rich starches, sugars and fats are the most inexpensive way to fill empty stomachs.

For years, food banks operated on a non-perishable grocery donation system, which led to the distribution of highly processed foods. While canned foods, rice, beans, cereal and peanut butter remain staples, The Food Bank is striving to increase the percentage of produce, protein and dairy products provided. Partnerships with growers and organizations will help, says Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank. In the next few years, the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and partner affiliates will open an Agricultural Park in Columbia that will produce 50,000 pounds of fresh produce for The Food Bank yearly.

The Phelps County greenhouse is expected to produce thousands of pounds for pantries in that area. And other farmers and growers throughout The Food Bank’s 32-county service area are also contributing by making fresh donations to local pantries.

“The bottom line is that we all deserve to have access to foods that keep us healthy,” Lopez says. “We so appreciate these new partnerships that will help us increase our clients’ access to foods to encourage.”

Potbelly Sandwich Shop event to benefit The Food Bank

Potbelly Sandwich Shop announced today that its first shop in Columbia will be open to the public on Tuesday, July 25. The shop is located in Forum Development Group’s Broadway Bluffs at 2500 Broadway Bluffs Drive on East Broadway, near the intersection with Highway 63. The widely acclaimed neighborhood hangout features toasty warm sandwiches, hand-dipped milkshakes and live music, all making it “The Best Place for Lunch.”

Restaurant and hospitality aficionado Evan Thomas will open this Columbia location. Thomas plans to give back to the local neighborhood with an oven-warming event on July 24, with proceeds going to The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri. For a $6 donation, Oven Warming attendees will receive a sandwich, chips and a drink either during lunch hours, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., or dinner hours from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Reserve a meal here.

“Opening our first location here is definitely a cause for celebration,” Thomas said. “Since I worked at my first Potbelly shop in Chicago, I couldn’t wait to open my own location. Now, I’m ready to bring a great lunch experience and fun neighborhood vibe to families and students throughout Columbia.”

A Columbia native, Thomas brings nearly 20 years of restaurant and customer service experience to his new shop, including working as the general manager at numerous Potbelly corporate locations in Chicago. 

Thomas will manage the Potbelly Sandwich Shop in Columbia, which includes day-to-day operations, hiring new staff and booking local musicians who perform regularly at the shop. Hours of operation will be Mondays through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“With this opening, we’re looking forward to watching Evan make Potbelly the best place for lunch in Columbia,” said Chris Birkinshaw, senior director of domestic franchising for Potbelly Sandwich Shop. “With Evan’s background in the industry and his extensive experience at Potbelly locations in Chicago, he has what it takes to make his location a perfect fit for locals and students looking for their favorite new favorite sandwich shop.”

Potbelly Sandwich Shop first opened in Chicago in 1977, and operates more than 400 shops across the United States. Franchisees operate more than 35 shops in the United States and abroad, and Potbelly plans to continue franchise growth in 2017.

For additional information about joining the Potbelly team or to learn more about the new Columbia location, visit www.Potbelly.com.

Summer lunch program to provide produce to families

This summer, The Food Bank will provide bags of fresh produce and produce vouchers to children attending Summer Food 4 Kids sites in Boone County.

The project is possible through funding from Conagra Brands Foundation’s Hunger-Free Summer Program. With a $20,000 grant, The Food Bank will allow summer feeding recipients to take fresh fruits and vegetables home after lunch. Additionally, up to two $5 vouchers will be given out to be used to purchase fresh produce at local grocery stores and additional $5 vouchers will be given weekly to be used at the Columbia Farmers’ Market.

“This is a great time of year to implement a program that increases distribution of fruits and vegetables,” says Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank. “Summer months can be paradoxical. On one hand, gardens and greenhouses are overflowing with nutritious and delicious produce. On the other hand, some children no longer have access to subsidized school meals, meaning they are more at risk of food insecurity.”

Lopez is hopeful the produce program provides incentives for more children to attend summer feeding sites in Columbia. Lunches will be served from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at parks and churches located in high-need neighborhoods.

This is the second year The Food Bank has used summer feeding sites to educate children about healthy eating. A Farm to Table program began at Central Pantry last year to introduce children to new fruits and vegetables and ways to prepare them. “We want the next generation to understand where food comes from and how it is grown and harvested,” Lopez said. “We also want them to better appreciate nutritional foods that encourage healthy lifestyles.”

Good nutrition to welcome heroes

Tim Rich, director of Welcome Home, and Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank.

Tim Rich, director of Welcome Home, and Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank.

Homeless Veterans in need of shelter will now also find a hot meal, thanks to a new partnership that will save Welcome Home, Inc., money on food expenses.

The Food Bank has taken Welcome Home on as a partner agency and will provide food for Veterans living there at no charge to them or the organization. That means Welcome Home will be able to allocate its resources toward other expenses.

“We are thrilled to be part of efforts that help homeless Veterans in their transition back into
society,” says Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank. “Our heroes in need
deserve nutritious, consistent meals, and we are delighted to be the agency providing that service.”

The partnership becomes effective when Welcome Home moves into its new $8.1 million campus on Rangeline Street in Columbia next month. The facility will provide 29 transitional housing rooms.

This is not the first time The Food Bank has brought attention to Veterans living at or below poverty. The Food Bank has been providing VIP Veteran Packs to Welcome Home since last year. The VIP Veteran Pack Program began in May 2016 as a pilot program in Boone County. With funding from Veterans United, 125 packs of ready-to-eat meals and personal care
items are also distributed monthly at Central Pantry and Patriot Place, an apartment complex for Veterans.

Bringing Welcome Home and The Food Bank together through a formal partnership is a natural fit, says Tim Rich, the executive director of Welcome Home who previously served as The Food Bank’s associate director.

“Agencies and partners working together is what makes Columbia a great community,” he says.
The Veterans’ shelter is The Food Bank’s 137th partner agency.

“When you support The Food Bank, you are also supporting so many wonderful organizations such as Welcome Home,” Lopez said. “We are proud to provide the food needed to feed residents there.”

Boonville graduate raises money, awareness for Buddy Pack Program

Alec Adair presents a check for $402 for Buddy Packs in Cooper County to The Food Bank Executive Director Lindsay Young Lopez.

Alec Adair presents a check for $402 for Buddy Packs in Cooper County to The Food Bank Executive Director Lindsay Young Lopez.

A Boonville graduate recently raised $402 for the Buddy Pack program there after hosting a youth basketball camp and using the experience for his senior class project.

Alec Adair said he selected hunger as his project topic because he recalled volunteering for the Buddy Pack Program when he was in middle school. After helping assemble them, he had the opportunity to distribute the packs to elementary school children.

 “You don’t think about hunger being a problem in Boonville,” he said. “You don’t think about it until you actually see it.”

This spring, Alec hosted a two-day boys and girls basketball camp, charging a $10 entry fee and asking parents for donations.

Then, he presented the project to his college preparatory English class.

“I presented to the class, but I didn’t ask for donations,” he said. “My teacher did, and $200 flew out of pockets. I was not expecting that. That was awesome, getting it from high school students. It restored my faith in humanity.”

Alec is now headed to Central Methodist University in Fayette, where he is considering a career in education, coaching or communications.

“I like working with people,” he said.

And he also plans to continue philanthropic efforts.

“This was an awesome experience.”

Lewis County Food Pantry to continue in Canton

The Food Bank Agency Relations Coordinator Barbara Borntrager honors longtime Lewis County Food Pantry director Nina Porter. The pantry will continue next month at a new location in Canton.

The Food Bank Agency Relations Coordinator Barbara Borntrager honors longtime Lewis County Food Pantry director Nina Porter. The pantry will continue next month at a new location in Canton.

The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri will continue to serve those in need in Canton at a new food pantry location on Clark Street.

The Lewis County Food Pantry will distribute food at no charge to the public from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, July 7, at 412 Clark Street. Recipients will need to bring something in which to carry groceries, such as boxes, bags or laundry baskets.

The new pantry location and volunteers are being organized by Mandy Gosik, pastor of the Canton Christian Church. She is currently working to form a 501©3 and a pantry board of directors.

The former location at the First Baptist Church held its last distribution this week. On Thursday, members of The Food Bank staff honored former director Nina Porter for her nearly two decades of service.

“We so appreciate Nina’s commitment to the people of Canton,” said Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank. “And we are very grateful for Pastor Gosik taking the lead on making sure distribution will continue in Canton. We are confident this will be a seamless transition.”

Porter became involved in the pantry after her pastor asked her to help him one day. Eight years later, she became director. The pantry has grown from serving about 45 families to serving more than 260 families.

“I enjoy meeting the people and working with this group,” she said, referring to the volunteers around her. “They’ve been like family.”

Volunteers play key role during Stamp Out Hunger

Sandy Hayton spotted a green bag underneath a mailbox while her husband navigated the roads of northeast Columbia.

“There’s food,” she announced as he pulled over to the side. She exited, grabbed the bag and added it to the growing pile of food donation bags in the couple’s van.

It is a scene that played out again and again across The Food Bank’s 32-county service area during the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 25th annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive. Food and funds are still coming in, and a total amount raised should be available in the coming weeks.

Rich and Sandy Hayton have participated in the drive for the past decade. They originally got involved through the First United Methodist Church in Jefferson City. After retiring from their respective state jobs and moving to Columbia, they opted to continue to participate in the nationwide drive.

“Never miss an opportunity for Christian fellowship,” Rich said, adding that he is always heartened by the generosity of those who give during the event.

Randall and Kirsten Adams have also participated for years. Randall got involved after starting his career with the postal service in 2004. These days, both he and his wife, Kirsten, who also works at the post office, take the day off to be a part of the event.

"Every year it gets better," Randall said. "I know friends who have used the pantry, and we know this is contributing to a good cause. It keeps kids fed."

Volunteers are also critical to the success of the drive, helping collect food along postal routes and sorting non-perishable items at post offices in Columbia, Jefferson City and other communities.

“Stamp Out Hunger is a wonderful day of collecting food and funds to help feed neighbors in need,” said Lindsay Young Lopez, The Food Bank’s executive director. “Volunteers make it an even more rewarding experience. Thank you to everyone who helped out this year.”

Helping families in Miller County

“We begged, we borrowed, we struggled.”

That’s how Sheena provided for her three children for several months when she did not have access to work or a vehicle. The Miller County resident has since secured a job and last month was able to drive to Rocky Mount food pantry to stock up on groceries.

“This will really help me stretch my check,” she said, adding that she is making minimum wage. 

The Rocky Mount Church pantry is up and running in a new building after operating out of the church basement for nearly two decades. The new building, made possible through a grant and numerous
in-kind donations, opened this past summer. Pastor Dan Duckworth and his wife Marilyn are serving about 2,000 people every month.

Another client, Mable, relies on the pantry monthly. Her husband is a retired concrete worker and she raised five children. The couple now lives on Social Security. 

Mable stressed that nothing she picks up from the pantry is wasted.

“We use everything we get here,” she said during her March visit. When asked what she would do without it, she said the couple would "skimp."

Mable said she appreciates those who are in a position to donate to make The Food Bank possible.

“Thank you,” Sheena agreed. “This is a massive help.”

Yager nominated for annual Hero Award

Some heroes wear hairnets. Carl Yager is one of them.

Carl is a regular fixture at The Food Bank, coming in every Tuesday and Thursday morning. A Navy veteran, he has been volunteering since his wife passed away in 2012 and has logged more than 2,000 hours. That works out to 250 work days.

The Food Bank has nominated Carl for the Columbia Daily Tribune’s annual Hero Award, an honor that recognizes volunteers making a difference in the community.

Carl has made a difference both in and outside of Columbia. In The Food Bank’s Volunteer Room, he is known for helping newcomers learn the ropes and for making others feel welcome. In 2013, he ventured outside of the facility and worked with The Food Bank staff to survey clients at pantries and soup kitchens throughout our 32-county service area. He was named The Food Bank’s Volunteer of the Month that September.

“We appreciate Carl’s commitment to The Food Bank,” says Melanie Lake, volunteer programs coordinator. “He has really become a valuable part of our team, not only saving us money in avoided labor costs but also creating a positive environment.”

The Hero Awards are scheduled to be announced on April 24.

Taking cardboard boat building to another level

Ruben and Corrie Bolton show off Float Your Boat's first-ever solely cardboard boat.

Ruben and Corrie Bolton show off Float Your Boat's first-ever solely cardboard boat.

Ruben Bolton and his daughter Corrie took this year’s cardboard boat challenge to a whole new level.

The duo built a boat entirely of cardboard: No duct tape; no glue; no paint.

Prior to the races at Float Your Boat on Saturday, Bolton admitted he was not sure the boat, titled “Nothing but Cardboard,” would make it across Bass Pro Shops Lake. Not only did it float, it beat the competition in speed.

Nearly 50 cardboard creations set sail for The Food Bank this past weekend, raising money to help feed neighbors in need. The People’s Choice Award brought in more than $8,000, while the total raised during the event is still being calculated.

For Bolton, the challenge was spiritual. The cardboard represented the purity of his beliefs. While extras such as glue and caulk may make a boat seem more equipped for the water, Bolton said he wanted to put his faith solely in the foundation.

Others participating in the sixth annual cardboard boat regatta say boat building was an exercise in teamwork.

“Definitely a lot of team building,” said Lisa Matthiesen with the Centralia High School SMART program. Sixth graders in the afterschool program constructed their boat, learning math, science and engineering along the way. “It was a good learning experience.”

Edward Jones of Columbia participated in Float Your Boat for the first time this year.

“We heard about it several years ago,” said Laura Loomis, captain of her team’s boat. “We decided to do it and jumped in with both feet.”

While Edward Jones’ “Rub a Dub Duckie” boat—complete with balloons and a trail of tiny ducklings—did not win its heat, it did take the “Best Use of a Theme” prize.

Environmental Dynamics International retained its People’s Choice Award title, raising more than $2,000 for The Food Bank.

“Every year, this is our jam,” said Sherri Redmon. “We have bake sales, fundraisers and get employees involved all across the company. They look forward to this.”

EDI also had fun with its boat theme, recreating Lego Batman using cardboard costumes.

Redmon stressed that the fun is secondary to the mission of The Food Bank.

“We float their boat,” she said. “They float our spirits.”

Prize Winners
People’s Choice: Environmental Dynamics International, “Lego Batman”
Best in Show: Floating Elmerinos, “Elmerine” Ghostbusters
Can’t Believe it’s Cardboard: Ruben Bolton, “Nothing But Cardboard”
Best Use of a Theme: Edward Jones, “Rub-a-Dub Duckie”
Ugliest Boat: CAFNR Student Council, “Boats N Heifers”
Titanic Award for Best Sinking: Eat Mo Carp, “Carpe Diem”
Bass Pro Shops Award: Professional Contractors & Engineers, “Corrugated Corsair”
Pirate Class Award: Unilever, Monster Truck Inc.

Short Course Time Winners
1st: Floating Elmerinos, “Elmerine”
2nd: Wild Folk Unschool, “Mystery Canoe
3rd: Mill Creek Cougars, “Cougar Cruisers”

Long Course Time
1st: Professional Contractors & Engineers, “Corrugated Corsair”
2nd: KOPN, “Patty Mae”
3rd: Unileaver, “SS Minnie”

Central Pantry volunteer uses opportunity to learn English

When Victor moved from the Ukraine to Columbia to be closer to his daughter and her family, he knew the first thing he needed to do was learn English.

He also wanted to find a way to learn the language while helping others. That is why he signed up to volunteer at Central Pantry.

“People here help feed people,” he said. “It is very kind. Very, very good.”

Victor knew no English when he started volunteering a year ago, Sean Ross, pantry supervisor, said. Ross paired him up with another volunteer who speaks several languages, including Russian. She translated, helping Victor get to the point where he was able to seek employment. He now works at Kraft-Heinz but still lends a hand at the pantry.

“People here are helpful," he said. "I like that.”

Ross described Victor as a “work horse” who rarely slows down.

“He is willing to do anything—stock shelves, take out the trash,” Ross said. “He’s full-speed ahead 100 percent of the time.”