2016 Pounds Shipped to Phelps County:
We work with the following agencies to get nutritional food to those in need in Phelps County:
CHOICES FOR PEOPLE
GREAT CIRCLE- ST JAMES
MOBILE FOOD PANTRY
PHELPS COUNTY FAITH DISTRIBUTION, INC.
ROLLA CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE NEWBURG PANTRY
ROLLA CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE SOUP KITCHEN
SAINT JAMES CARING CENTER
SAINT JAMES SENIOR CENTER
In the News
The Food Bank combats food scarcity in Phelps County
Rolla Daily News
It seems contradictory. Missouri is in the “breadbasket” of the Midwest, yet many go hungry.
By JOHN BUCKNER / email@example.com
It seems contradictory. Missouri is in the “breadbasket” of the Midwest, yet many go hungry. The reasons are as old as time itself, but since families are no longer involved in growing their own food, they must get it elsewhere, and that’s a stark reality for those who struggle to make ends meet. But agriculture and food processing has changed drastically. That’s an opportunity for those households in Phelps County that are prone to food scarcity. According to Feeding America, a non-profit that focuses on feeding the nation’s hungry, Phelps county has around 7,000 residents defined as “food insecure.”
Large food processing companies are efficient at canning, packaging and processing, whether it is fresh produce like fruits and vegetables or animal protein. But food is perishable—even food deemed “shelf-stable” like canned goods. It carries an expiration date and must be sold. Depending on the economy, weather and food distribution logistics, there is always surplus food in the chain, known as “overages,” that can be purchased at a discount, distributed and eaten; or it must simply be discarded.
Feeding America’s mission is to organize within the big picture of hunger in America. Based in Chicago, they work with mega-food corporations such as ADM and Con Agra to purchase food for pennies on the dollar. Once food is purchased, the monumental task of distribution begins.
Feeding America recognizes that hunger problems are best solved locally, and in Mo., that led to the establishment of a central food collection point, known as The Food Bank, located in Columbia.
“We have a huge warehouse (45,000 square feet) with both refrigeration and freezer storage,” says Jessica Long, regional coordinator for The Food Bank. They also have bricks and mortar “buddy banks” that serve as small pantries, receiving food from the Columbia warehouse. In addition, they coordinate a “buddy pack” program in the schools of many counties. “It’s one of our biggest programs, feeding 7,500 kids,” Long explains.
For planning purposes, The Food Bank has divided the entire state of Missouri into six regions. Each region is covered by a different food bank.
“We cover 32 counties in central and northeast Mo.,” says Long.
“We’re the largest food bank in the state. We are also the only food bank in the state that does not charge any of our member agencies for the food that we provide.“
Long says her job is to go into the counties they are mandated to serve and they will find local partners. “They are the ones doing actual food distributions,” she explains.
“We work to get them the food they need to be able to do those food distributions.“
Here in Phelps County, The Food Bank works with nine different organizations at 11 different sites in Rolla, Newburg and St. James. Long says there are three different ways to do these distributions.
“We work with congregate organizations such as Choices for People. They don’t actually provide boxes of foods to individuals. They provide meals. We work with pantries, such as the Phelps County Faith Distribution.”
This is a church that has a small warehouse in the basement to store food. Once or twice a month, they open up their doors to families.
“When we don’t think we have enough partners in the community, then The Food Bank will bring in mobile pantries that are refrigerated box trucks,” notes Long. “We will work with site volunteers who help us do distributions. Greentree Church, for instance, operates a mobile food pantry in the parking lot on designated days.”
Another church that is active with food distribution in Rolla is the Church of Nazarene. They have a partnership with the Salvation Army.
“Each month, The Food Bank arrives at the Salvation Army and we do food pick ups there and distribute to around 75 families in Rolla on a Friday, typically the third Friday of the month,” says Pastor Ron Sluder.
On Saturday, they travel to Newburg and distribute to near 150 families. “That amounts to serving close to a thousand people.“
Pastor Sluder says The Food Bank does a great job coordinating the logistics of moving a lot of food into our area, but wanted to recognize the local providers as well—the local Rolla restaurants and grocery stores that help stock the pantry throughout the weeks that are in between the monthly runs. Any food surpluses are further distributed to other local charities such as the soup kitchen in Salem and GRACE and The Mission, here in Rolla.
“The other day, we took three pickup loads of food to these places because fresh food needs to get to where people can use it,” said the pastor.
“Not long ago, we took 180 dozen eggs to the Senior Apartments and they were gone within an hour.”
With the average household income in Phelps County standing at around $35,000 per household, it’s easy to see why a food program like this could be very popular. Do people that could ordinarily afford to buy food or work to buy their own food take advantage of The Food Bank Program? Pastor Sluder says the people that you might think are taking advantage of the program are simply the working poor.
“These people just find it tough to make ends meet and they are really grateful for the program. It makes you think, maybe if it weren’t for the grace of God, there I go [too].“
”We estimate we gave over half a million dollars worth of food last year that would have gone in the trash.“
The Church of Nazarene also holds a senior dinner each month for around 90 seniors. It’s a sit-down dinner with linens and china. “With our connection to The Food Bank, we’re able to feed all those folks and it doesn’t cost the church that much.“
”If it’s there to give, let’s give what we have,” he concludes.
According to Jessica Long, it is hard to characterize people that need the Food Bank services. “We have the elderly, young families with children and people who are struggling because they are out of work.”
According to the Department of Agriculture, Missouri has ranked in the top 10 food insecure states for years. The aged seniors, the unemployed and the working poor can all find themselves in a state of crisis.
Since the Food Bank only distributes food, community partners are valuable to ensure that food is going to those that truly need it. The amount of food distributed depends on how many people are in a household.
“We do require some paperwork, which indicates how many people are in the household and we ask that the people that show up, bring their Social Security cards,” says Long. “If the person says they have 10 people in the house to feed, they can prove it by showing 10 Social Security cards.”
Long says last year in Phelps County, they were serving over 3,300 people per month on average, through their various partner organizations.
“Matching that number to Feed America’s figure of 7,000 hungry in Phelps County, The Food Bank is meeting 50 percent of the needs.“
”We’re bringing in three mobile pantries to Phelps County right now and the reason for this is because there isn’t a bricks and mortar food bank,” said Long. It also means there are not enough Food Bank partners within the communities they serve. She insinuates that this isn’t efficient, so The Food Bank is currently working with a local group here in Rolla to make this permanent food pantry site a reality.
“Last year, we brought in 1.4 million pounds of food,” she said.
That’s a lot of food, but is it all boxes of mac and cheese and cans of pears and green beans? According to Long, 24 percent of the food distributed last year was fresh chicken, beef, pork and greens, as opposed to the shelf-stable cans and packages.
Project Protein is one Food Bank program in northeast Missouri. The Food Bank has a partnership with some large hog producers who provide pork for a discounted price. “This works out to $1.39 per pound for fresh-ground pork. It is processed in Palmyra and we’ll freeze this so it can be distributed to various counties. Because it is a local product, we’re able to maximize the costs. Since a quarter of the food distributed is fresh, Long says the Food Bank is incredibly conscientious about food safety.
“We have an agency coordinator that works with all the agencies to make sure food is stored at the right temperature and delivered safely,” she explains. Every organization they work with is inspected.
Food is procured through a partnership with Feeding America. For every dollar the Food Bank receives, they are able to purchase $21 of food.
“Because we are a Feeding America Food Bank, we have partnerships with huge companies such as ADM, Monsanto, and Kraft,“Long explains. “We can purchase trailer-loads of food for pennies on the pound. In many cases it’s simply the transportation costs.”
She says for every dollar the Food Bank receives from donations, 97 cents goes toward food acquisition and distribution. “We’re extremely careful with the funds we receive and we’re required to be as a Feeding America partner.“
The Food Bank does solicit donations, not from its partners, but from the community itself.
“If we get a donation from Phelps County—that allocation is designated to purchase food for Phelps County and distributed through our local partners,” she says.
According to Long, the wholesale value of food brought into Phelps County last year was the equivalent wholesale price of $2.4 million, but The Food Bank received less than $5,000 in donations from Phelps County. Unfortunately, this points to a possible sustainability issue for the Food Bank and the recipients of this goodwill. That could be a challenge for The Food Bank, but they have an ally.
Scott Baker is with Feeding Missouri, based in Columbia. This is the administration and marketing arm between Feeding America and Missouri’s six food banks and the associated two thousand local partners.
Baker says they serve as an association, where Missouri’s food banks are members. Feeding Missouri doesn’t manage the food banks, but serves as advocates to build awareness for the challenges of alleviating hunger in Mo., working with corporate sponsors statewide.
“People have a misunderstanding of hunger in general and what the food banks can do about it,” he says. “Only until they see the warehouse, forklifts and pallets of food do they see the scope of work being done.”
According to Baker, the model of food banks has had to change over the last five or six years due to better production forecasting in the food pipeline. The large processors have gone from mass donations of dented cans and product overruns to more of a discount food purchasing model.
“Food banks are having to buy more food [form these large processors],” he says.
The breakdown of funding for The Food Bank in Columbia starts with donations at 38 percent, government funding at 33 percent, grants at 9 percent, planned giving at eight percent, in-kind giving at 7 percent, the United Way allocation is four percent and one percent is miscellaneous.
Only three percent of this budget is spent on administration and fundraising.
“People see employment numbers improving now that we have come out of this recession, so they think the problems of hunger are being solved,” says Baker. “But this really has limited impact on the working poor in Rolla. There is still a lot of underemployment and the need is great.”
The Food Bank Selected Official Philanthropy of Missouri S&T Residence Hall Association
ROLLA – The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri has been selected the official philanthropy of the Missouri University of Science & Technology’s Residence Hall Association.
The student-run organization plans to coordinate food drives, fundraising efforts and volunteer opportunities for the Columbia-based organization, which provides food at no charge to several agencies in Rolla.
“We are excited about this new partnership,” said John Padgett, Residence Hall Association present. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for on-campus students to become more engaged with giving back to the Rolla community. Over 2,000 students at Missouri S&T live in a residence hall and that’s more than enough to leave a meaningful impact.”
Jessica Long, The Food Bank’s regional coordinator, said the organization is thrilled to be chosen this year.
“We are excited about working with the Residence Hall Association and Missouri S&T students to continue to serve the need in Rolla,” she said. “We know one in six local adults and one in five children face hunger on a regular basis here, and we want to do everything we can to alleviate that.”
The Food Bank currently works with Phelps County Distribution, Inc., the Rolla Church of the Nazarene, the Salvation Army and Choices for People to get food into the hands of those in need. Additionally, The Food Bank operates two Mobile Pantries in Rolla.
Supporting a Proud Population
ROLLA - Members of Southern Cherokee Tribe in Phelps County are proud of their culture and history. They describe their ancestors as courageous, honorable and loyal—traits they aspire to, as well.
They are also hungry.
The population of about 500 Southern Cherokee living in and
around Phelps County is so impoverished that social service agencies in the area reached out to The Food Bank seeking assistance. The problem? Many members were reluctant to accept help from outsiders.
That is where tribal leaders have stepped in. Chief Steve Matthews and his wife, Darla, have worked closely with The Food Bank to get food to fellow Tribe members.
Many have warmed up to the idea of accepting food at a Mobile Pantry, where Matthews and other Southern Cherokee leaders volunteer.
“Tribe members wouldn’t go otherwise,” Matthews said. “When people they know are running it, they are more comfortable.”
The pantry is now serving nearly 100 families, about a quarter of which are members of the Tribe.
“This really helps,” said Travis, a client and volunteer. “A million times, thank you to those who donate and the generosity of those who help with this.”
Ancestors of the Southern Cherokee were among the first Federally Recognized Band of the Cherokee Nation and the group that ultimately followed Major Ridge to Oklahoma prior to the Trail of Tears.
The Tribe later sought refuge in Southern Missouri. The state was not welcoming, forcing many to live in isolation. The result has been limited access to education, nutrition-related health issues and generational poverty.
“We relied on hunting and fishing, and to a great extent, many of us still do,” Matthews said. “But the Mobile Pantry helps out a lot. Everybody loves it.”
Score Campaign Now Includes Phelps County
The 2016 Missouri Tigers Score Against Hunger campaign will be held in Phelps County for the first time ever.
The campaign is The Food Bank’s largest fundraising effort. Each fall, it challenges University of Missouri football fans to get in on the action by pledging a dollar amount per point scored during the season or by directing an outright gift to the Tigers’ campaign.
Missouri Tigers Score Against Hunger began in 1995 under then MU Football Head Coach Larry Smith and continued under the helm of Coach Gary Pinkel. This year, Head Coach Barry Odom has agreed to carry on the tradition and participate.
“With excitement around a new season under a new coach, we decided it was a good year to expand the campaign to all of our counties,” said Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director. “We know there are Tigers fans throughout central and northeast Missouri, so we wanted to make sure they had an opportunity to participate, as well.”
Donations from Score go directly into the acquisition and distribution of food to those in need. As of June 30, the half-way point in the fiscal year, The Food Bank had distributed more than 767,000 pounds of food in Phelps County.
Missouri Tigers Score Against Hunger also encourages businesses and individuals to make leadership gifts, and those who do so are invited to a Victory Luncheon at the end of the season featuring Coach Odom.
Area Residents Stamp Out Hunger
Rolla area residents collectively donated 11,141 pounds of food earlier this year as part of the National Association of Letter Carriers’ annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
Food collected stays within the community in which it is collected.
Combined, Rolla and St. James residents donated the equivalent of more than 9,200 meals to those in need.
“We are so grateful to everyone who participated in Stamp Out Hunger,” said Lindsay Young Lopez, regional coordinator for The Food Bank. “While this is a national food drive, it is also very much a community event, and I’m proud of the way the Rolla and St. James communities came together to help us feed neighbors in need.”
Stamp Out Hunger began in 1992 and is the largest single-day food drive in the country.