Extra help in providing food to area families came in the form of more than 27,000 pounds of food delivered by the St. Louis Area Food Bank on Feb. 27.
Bethany Prange, social media specialist for the agency, explained the food bank partners with 512 partner agencies in 26 counties in Missouri and Illinois.
In Farmington, those agencies are the Ministerial Alliance and the St. Vincent DePaul food pantries.
Food is distributed by the food bank to those agencies on a monthly-basis around the year.
Once each month, excluding December and January, the agency relations department of the food bank looks at how many pounds are being distributed in each of the counties.
“We go by the ‘pound per person and poverty index,’” Prange explained. “When the staff sees a certain county has less pounds (of food) than what we would like to see for people in that area, then we host a food fair.”
The food bank then coordinates with the local pantries in that area to distribute food to 200 families in a two-hour period the day of the fair.
One is held in Missouri and another in Illinois each month.
The Farmington food fair was held at the fire department due to a weather forecast initially calling for rain.
Prange said it was the first time the fair was held at that location. Past events have taken place at other locations in town.
“Even though it didn’t rain, it worked out nicely to have our volunteers in from the cold,” Prange added.
Among the volunteers that day were representatives from both food pantries and local congregations, students from the Farmington Middle School Character Council and character education classes as well as members of the Farmington High School Key Club.
The volunteers meet at the location shortly before the trucks arrive from St. Louis.
Then, it’s the task of preparing the items for distribution.
Most items come in prepackaged containers. For items such as heads of cabbage, the group places each in a plastic bag to distribute.
Staff from the food bank instructed each of the volunteers as to what would occur during the event.
Cars would drive through the bay at the fire station, stopping at the designated cones. It was then the volunteers’ duty to place whatever food item they were responsible for in the vehicle.
The students teamed up with adult volunteers at each of the stations. Once a car pulled up and stopped, it was a beehive of activity as boxes of granola bars, pancakes, carrots, potatoes and other staples were put in the vehicles.
Todd Varhalla is an instructor at Farmington Middle School and Key Club sponsor.
He said the students were “very happy” to contribute their time and services during the food fair.
Helping in the community is something they enjoy doing, he added, and when the call came from Ministerial Alliance Director Nancy Faulkner, “they were happy to help out.”
Prange the volunteers are a vital part of the food fair. The event is limited in the time it can be held, so getting the food to the families quickly is important.
“The volunteers are very instrumental in helping us make that happen,” she said.
Prange said all the agencies the food bank works with have seen an increase in the numbers they are helping.
“Almost all of them report a startling increase over the past few years. A pantry that used to serve 20 families is now feeding 100. That’s basically across the board,” Prange said.
Prange said many at the Farmington event expressed their appreciation to the food bank for the fair.
“A lot of people expressed they hated to have to rely on (food pantry services), but they don’t have any other choice. By the time they pay their mortgage and car payments, there is nothing left for food,” she said. “They are doing the best they can.”
Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor for the Farmington Press and can be reached by calling 573-756-8927 or email@example.com