St. Louis County will provide $2.6 million in CARES Act funding to five organizations to address food insecurity, announced County Executive Sam Page on Wednesday, May 13.
“This pandemic has taken its toll on many families,” Page said during his Wednesday morning press briefing. “I’ve been to some of these food giveaways in our communities, and cars are lined up around the block. Families will wait in line for hours, and some of them have small children in tow.”
Operation Food Search will receive the largest grant of $1,312,320. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Operation Food Search has provided food to 200 agencies, feeding about 200,000 people every month. They work with nonprofits such as Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and Beyond Housing to host drive-thru food and toiletry giveaways.
Before March, the rate of food insecurity in Missouri was 14 percent, said Kristen Wild, executive director of Operation Food Search.
“It currently sits at 41 percent,” Wild said. “There are many people who are going to bed hungry or not knowing where they will get their next meal or how they will feed their children.”
Many of these families have never experienced food insecurity in their lives, she said.
The grant will allow the group to offer free meals weekly at distribution sites at 10 public schools and 10 libraries within St. Louis County, between June 1 and the start of school in late August.
The St. Louis Area Foodbank will receive a $655,750 grant. In May alone, the foodbank has 58 drive-thru events scheduled. The grant will allow them to distribute an additional 40,000 to 60,000 meals per week through events in St. Louis County. An additional 45,000 meals per week will be distributed through a network of 80 partner agencies and community programs.
The Urban League will receive $500,000 to hold seven events at the Old Jamestown Mall in May through August to distribute food and household goods to needy families. They will also distribute food and toiletries to seniors and the disabled community weekly through the end of December.
Already, the Urban League has given 13,000 individuals $600,000 worth of food and supplies.
“About 75 percent said they have never been in a food line in their entire lives,” said Michael McMillan, CEO and president of the Urban League.
Link Market will receive $110,000 and will set up four pop-up weekly grocery markets within St. Louis County that will offer access to healthy, affordable food in food deserts between May and December. The funding will also sponsor 400 vouchers of $25 each and a 50%-off discount for customers using SNAP.
Potzbangerz will receive a $27,032 grant. Over 12 weeks, Potbangerz will serve over 1,650 well-balanced meals to unhoused families and will deliver two weeks’ worth of groceries and other essentials to approximately four families per week.
Page said the region is fortunate to have so many organizations that do great, effective work in addressing this growing need.
“Before this epidemic, food insecurity was a real issue, but it’s never been like it has been today,” Page said. “We are going to help them with their mission through their networks to make sure that families who need it most will have access to food. No child should go hungry. A child who is hungry doesn't do well in school and their growth is stifled.”