ST. LOUIS — The Family Dinner Program has been launched to help feed St. Louis families in neighborhoods with the highest need.
The program was started by a local "entrepreneurship incubator" called Habitat for Neighborhood Business (HNB) in conjunction with Saint Louis University, according to a press release. The organization said it wants to respond to the growing need due to furloughs, layoffs or illness related to the coronavirus pandemic.
About 200 Saint Louis Public Schools families, who have been identified by SLPS as needing the most help, will receive free nourishing meals through collaboration with the St. Louis Area Foodbank, the release said. That will be followed by four to six weeks of significantly expanded meals through food pantries in north and south St. Louis.
“After we learned about the increasing stress on these families in underserved neighborhoods, the need to act was urgent,” HNB Board Chairman Douglas Brown said in the release. “We decided to act quickly using networking by HNB staff and board members to identify partners and funding.”
The partnerships and program, which will supplement the food support that SLPS has been providing school families through its Emergency Response Fund, was conceived and put into operation in just a few weeks, the release said.
“For families experiencing food insecurity and hunger, the stress and worry we are all experiencing right now is multiplied,” said Dr. Kelvin R. Adams, SLPS Superintendent. “We are thankful for entities like the St. Louis Area Foodbank and Habitat for Neighborhood Business at Saint Louis University for working to establish a plan to supplement the pandemic meal program in the City of St. Louis. Through their partnership, families in need can pick up good, nutritious dinners at area food pantries and mobile food markets.”
The cost of the program is being entirely funded by donations and staffed with volunteers.
In addition to providing the meals, the Foodbank will organize mobile markets at distribution sites located near 10 SLPS schools. Pallets of fresh food will be brought in to provide fruits, vegetables and meat for area families.
“Knowing that COVID-19 is tough on everyone, the Foodbank is honored and humbled to partner with Saint Louis Public Schools and Habitat for Neighborhood Business at Saint Louis University to keep families healthy and strong by providing nutritious meals during these challenging times,” said St. Louis Area Foodbank President and CEO, Meredith Knopp in the release. “If families need food assistance, we will work to direct them to locations close to their home where they can get the help they need. Together, we’re building stronger communities by empowering people with food and hope."
Saint Louis University, which is a founding partner of HNB, said the program aligns with the university’s mission of supporting the community and those most in need.
“The virtue or habit of solidarity is central to our way of proceeding as a Catholic and Jesuit university and so this collaborative outreach from HNB, the St Louis Foodbank and St Louis Public Schools expresses most eloquently that mission of Saint Louis University,” said Christopher Collins, S.J., SLU Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity.
Donations committed to date will fund up to 100,000 meals, in part because the Foodbank receives many food products at little to no cost. Even so, this program may need to be extended, depending on when the area economic situation improves. Donations for the Family Dinner Program can be sent to:
Habitat for Neighborhood Business
Family Food Program
3674 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108