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Nutrition options for those in need

There are several different avenues for individuals living in the Parkland to receive food at no charge.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) “offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.”

To get SNAP benefits, individuals must apply in the state in which you currently live and you must meet certain requirements including resource and income limits, which are updated annually.

Family Support Division Offices in this area include Ironton Resource Center (202 Park Dr.); Fredericktown Resource Center (413 Burris St.); Park Hills Resource Center (140 Staples Dr.); Ste. Genevieve Resource Center (583B Ste. Genevieve Dr.); and Potosi Resource Center (10235 W. Highway E).

Households can use SNAP benefits to buy foods for household members to eat, such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and poultry and dairy products.

For school-aged children, free and or reduced school lunches and breakfasts are often available during the school year. Also, many area school districts offer a backpack program during the school year where students’ families can receive some non-perishable food items to take home.

Check with your local school district to see what it offers and to whom.

According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website:

All children in households receiving benefits from the Food Stamp Program/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) or Temporary Assistance/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), are eligible for free meals.

Also, foster children that are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for free meals. Also eligible for free meals are children participating in their school’s Head Start program and children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway or migrant.

Children may receive free or reduced price meals if the household’s income is within the limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines.

Additionally, many communities have weekly or monthly free evening meals. For instance, Compassion Café in Madison County offers a free meal once a month at Kelly A. Burlison Middle School.

There are three free meals offered in St. Francois County. The Cornerstone Café is 5-6 p.m. every Wednesday at Centenary United Methodist Church in Bonne Terre. MUM’s Café at Memorial United Methodist Church in Farmington serves a free meal 5-6 p.m. every Thursday. Our Father’s Table serves a free meal 4-6 p.m. the last Sunday of each month at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Farmington.

And more and more churches are offering feeding programs during mid-week children’s services. For example, Open Heart Assembly in Farmington offers a warm cooked meal to all children and teens in attendance before regular Wednesday evening services. Many others in the region provide similar supplemental feeding ministries.

As for food to prepare at home, East Missouri Action Agency lists 23 food pantries in Iron, Madison, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve and Washington cunties.

The Farmington Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry is one of seven in St. Francois County. The pantry is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. until noon.

Director Nancy Faulkner says the Farmington Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry serves an average of 300 families (or 700-800 individuals) per month.

According to Rob Baker, community services coordinator for EMAA, all food panty recipients in St Francois County require a referral from EMAA in order to receive services. Families go to the outreach office at 903 E. Chestnut in Desloge, taking with them an ID for each household member and proof of address. The family chooses a pantry in the area. Pantries require an annual renewal of the referral. Referrals for food are done during normal EMAA business hours (Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.).

“This is done in St. Francois County at the request of the pantries,” Baker said. “The referral process allows the pantries to know that families are being served by only one pantry.”

Food pantries in other counties require some proof of income as well.

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a special supplemental nutrition program which provides services to pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children up to their fifth birthday, that according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Supplemental food is provided at no cost to participants.

WIC does require income verification as well as other proof of identification and residency. In order to get WIC, call your local health department to schedule an appointment. Those numbers are: Madison County Health Department at 573-783-2747; Iron County Health Department at 573-546-7121; St. Francois County Health Department at 573-431-1947; Ste. Genevieve County Health Department at 573-883-7411; and Washington County Health Department at 573-438-2164.

The parent/legal guardian must bring the infant or child to the appointment, along with proof of identification, proof of residence, and proof of income.

The food supplement packages are based on the certification of a pregnant woman, breastfeeding woman, postpartum woman, breast-fed infant, formula-fed infant or children 1-4 years of age.

The options can include milk (many options to choose from), domestic cheese (store band only), yogurt, tofu, eggs, peanut butter, canned beans, dry beans, peas and lentils, cold cereals, hot cereals, whole wheat/whole grain bread, tortillas, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, frozen concentrate or bottled juice, fresh and frozen fruits, fresh and frozen vegetables, and infant foods.

A new qualifying food as of Oct. 1, 2018 is shredded cheese.

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food at no cost to participants. This is just one of many available options for nutrition at reduced or no cost.

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food at no cost to participants. This is just one of many available options for nutrition at reduced or no cost.

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