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St. Louis-Area Food Banks Aim To Help More People As Coronavirus Crisis Sparks Need

A staff member loads up food donations for a church group at an emergency food distribution center set up outside Better Family Life on Thursday, March 26, 2020.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
A staff member loads up food donations for a church group at an emergency food distribution center set up outside Better Family Life.

People throughout the St. Louis region have flocked to grocery stores to stock up on supplies they need while staying home to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

But many people cannot afford food. To help ensure their needs are met, the St. Louis Area Foodbank and other nonprofits are stepping up their efforts to provide food.

“What we’re seeing right now with the COVID-19 virus is that people who are already struggling with food insecurity are struggling even more to make ends meet,” said Meredith Knopp, the food bank’s president and CEO.

Food pantries and charities that serve poor people, children and senior citizens have seen an increase in demand as some residents have lost their jobs over the past few weeks, Knopp said.

The food bank has seen about a 30% increase in calls for service over the past couple of weeks, she said. To meet the need, the organization is holding more events to distribute food while prioritizing locations near people who may have limited access to food.

St. Louis County is trying to identify who needs help and direct them to it, said Yusef Scoggin, director of the county’s Office of Family and Community Services.

“We are coordinating all of the good work from nonprofits and other organizations in the community to identify where do we have adequate coverage and then where do we need to infield where there aren’t many services,” Scoggin said.

The county is working with several organizations and local nonprofit Operation Food Search to publicizelocations for food services and meal programs for children.

“There are various folks who don’t share the same comforts that many of us do and certainly will need some help both immediately and in the near term,” Scoggin said.

In St. Louis, schools are implementing food programs for children. The St. Louis Public Schools pandemic meal plan offers free meals to residents 18 and younger at public schools around the city.

“We don’t want our size restrictions to limit people to get resources,” said Jacob Long, spokesperson for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. “If you’re 18, 19, 20, 21-year-old who is qualified as low income and in need of food, certainly look to those community-based resources.”

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Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.