ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Volunteers eagerly packed boxes with food at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Florissant Friday afternoon.
The church in north St. Louis County recently welcomed a neighboring church’s food pantry as part of its ministry.
Bellefontaine United Methodist Church closed its doors this summer after more than 200 years due to low membership.
Shirley Hiob had served with the food pantry there for 10 years.
"Losing our pantry was very heart-wrenching for all of us that work with it,” she said.
Not all hope was lost for the “Project Hope” food pantry.
“Feeding the hungry is in your bible all the way through to service God's people and that's what we want to continue to do," Hiob said.
Staff at St. Andrew said the project was a perfect match for their ongoing mission to feed the hungry.
"We just knew that this project had to move over to our church because it was a need in our community. There were definitely families that were in need from Bellefontaine and we knew we could grow it in our community,” said Jenny Proffitt, practice area leader for the church’s Risk-taking Mission and Service.
The pantry receives items from Operation Food Search, a hunger relief organization that provides resources to reduce food insecurity, and donations from their partners in Kirkwood, including non-perishable and perishable items.
"Cereal is very expensive for a family to come up with. Meat is another big item,” Hiob said.
Proffitt said the group would like to service about 30 families currently and anticipated future growth once they build up their infrastructure.
The volunteers also stressed how important and rewarding it was to make a connection with families as they pick up items.
"For all of these volunteers, it's more than just about packing these boxes and loading them up with non-perishable items but really making a connection with the many families they serve."
“Not only are you reaching them to fill their stomachs, but you’re also reaching them to fill their souls," Hiob said.
Hunger and inflation have hit families harder within the last few years due to food insecurities in certain areas and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The food pantry at St. Andrew United Methodist Church is open on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and is located at the back of the sanctuary.
There are volunteer opportunities available and people can also donate food or money to assist.