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'We need the support that we're getting right now' | St. Louis groups aim to feed thousands in hard-hit communities

The support comes in the form of free lunches, masks and grocery essentials. It's part of St. Louis County NAACP's effort to distribute 5,000 meals in five weeks

NORMANDY, Mo. — Usually we'd tell you there's no such thing as a free lunch, but these are unusual times, and a free lunch is exactly what the sign outside the Epworth Drop-In Center in north St. Louis County promised.

"I thought I'd never live to see anything like this, this is, too much," said Rose Jackson.

She and Jaqueline Ewing drove through the center together to get help they thought they'd never need to ask for, and without which, they'd struggle.

"We need it for the community out here, it's hard for everyone out here to try to get out and get food," said Ewing. "We need the support that we're getting right now."

The support comes in the form of not just free lunches, but masks and grocery essentials. It's part of St. Louis County NAACP's effort to distribute 5,000 meals in five weeks. Friday, it was in partnership with Epworth Children & Family Services.

RELATED: Ferguson-Florissant and Riverview Gardens School Districts to start meal distribution

RELATED: Where kids can get free meals in St. Louis, Metro East

"Us working together, we're going to meet many of the challenges during this needy environment, and hopefully we can continue this for the long term," said John Bowman, president of St. Louis County NAACP.

They're also getting help behind the scenes in supplying the meals, which include sandwiches, cookies, chips, drinks and fruit.

"We don't want our names out there, we're doing it anonymously just to make sure everybody's taken care of in this community," said one of the organizers.

She told 5 On Your Side that a group of people — including owners of closed restaurants and food commissaries as well as golf courses and non-profit leaders — has teamed up to work quietly to help thousands.

"Our goal is starting next week, we're going to give away 10,000 meals and 10,000 masks. We’re primarily targeting the community here, and the NAACP we’ve paired with to help get the food out and to get the word out, and Epworth is helping us provide the meals and get the meals to people who are in need."

RELATED: St. Louis Police Foundation to feed 4,500 first responders every week through mid-May

Communities of color have been hit particularly hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. While these organizations' efforts are met with gratitude, leadership knows these communities can't survive these times on bread alone — even if it is free.

"I'm hoping that the powers that be will provide us with more PPE, more testing sites and we can continue helping the community in the way it's needing to be helped," said Bowman.

The St. Louis County NAACP and Epworth will host "Free Lunch Friday" again next week from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. in several locations: 

  • In Normandy at 7500 Natural Bridge Road
  • Store Space Self Storage at 8319 Jennings Station Road
  • Love Bank Park at 2851 Cherokee Street
  • Riverview Circle at Lewis & Clark Boulevard, Riverview, Halls Ferry and Goodfellow

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