OVERLAND, Mo. — Every day, Angela Gabel, the president of the board of directors of the Ritenour Co-Care Food Pantry, makes sure shopping carts are ready to go, filled with the right products.
"We rely completely on donations, and we are 100% volunteer. We have no paid employees," Gabel said.
About 50 volunteers work at the food pantry, which aims to help with food insecurity.
The pantry, which opened in 1980, serves all families within the Ritenour School District, including families without children.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the organization changed the way it ran things.
Before the pandemic, shoppers used to walk down the aisles, grab the items for themselves and head out the door.
But now, staff members pack carts, making sure families have all the items they need. Families then pick them up.
The amount of people needing its services changed as well.
"When the pandemic hit, we saw five times the number of clients overnight. We serve about 55 families a day," Gabel shared.
One of those clients is a mom of three. She's hoping to avoid the stigma that comes with food insecurity and doesn't want to be identified.
"I was desperate. I went to the store and half the shelves were empty. And the other items left, they were too high. I said, 'What am I going to do?'"
Inflation prices are making it harder to put food on the table.
"Just the prices on everything have gone up, and it’s hard out there—food insecurity is huge," the Ritenour mom said.
Gabel echoes the same concerns.
"Lately the cost of meat has been astronomical. People want to see meat and protein in their basket. The prices are going up and often times, donations go down," Gabel said.
When donations start to dwindle, the food pantry is forced to purchase the groceries it gives out.
"Our expenses have gone up. The price has doubled, and it’s important to have (food) in smaller quantities so we can mix and match (and) our families can have several pounds," Gabel pointed out.
The prices may go up, but the pantry's efforts aren't slowing down. It continues to roll with the punches and pack more than just food.
A lot of love fill up these carts, too.
"It’s super confidential. You don’t have to worry about anything, and it relieves so much stress. It’s so much better for your family. You don’t have to worry about your kids not having enough to eat. This is definitely a blessing," the Ritenour mom of three said.
5 On Your Side is taking a look at the educational challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. We went behind-the-scenes at the Ritenour School District for "Unmasked: Lessons Learned During the Pandemic," an hour-long special airing on Sunday, April 24 at 12 p.m., and on-demand on YouTube, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.