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Article courtesy of Suburban Journals (view the article online here)
Coupons, recipes stretch Foodbank's assets
Thursday, May 28, 2009 10:53 AM CDT
Independently owned restaurants have a new way to provide food to those who are hungry.
Sales of "EnjoyaLocal at Home!" recipe and coupon book, it is hoped, will provide more than meat and potatoes in an economy where the St. Louis Area Foodbank feeds more than 68,000 people every week in eastern Missouri and southern Illinois. Organizers hope the book will be sold soon in local supermarkets, too. The goal is to provide $100,000 to the Foodbank.
Corey Schuster, who sells insurance to restaurants, has been spokesperson for the project. Hospitality Development Alliance invited restaurants, at no charge, to donate a recipe and honor a coupon for $5 off a $20 purchase or a free kid's meal. HDA provides assistance for locally owned restaurants.
"At the end of the day, we all do business together in this community," he said.
Individual donations, including one from food distributor PFG-Middendorf, paid initial costs.
Nine restaurants provided a delicious kickoff for the book May 20 at the Foodbank's All-Agency Conference. Frank Finnegan, Foodbank's executive director, said funds from the cookbook will buy food, plus pay for delivering it, to 500 non-profit agencies in 26 counties.
In the first four months of the year, 6 million pounds of food was distributed in 2009, compared with 4 million pounds last year.
"We have always seen the working poor come for food, but there is a whole new group now," Finnegan said. "Seven out of 10 have never been to a food bank before."
Food as nourishment
More than half the agencies that distribute food attended to learn about U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements in Missouri or Illinois, online ordering and food-stamp outreach.
From a monthly service in Creve Coeur for seniors to pantries begun decades ago, every location is different.
Sister Joan Klaas has been with St. Agatha Food Pantry and Center in south St. Louis for 17 years. She said donations and the Foodbank are sources of food distributed there.
The Riverbend Community Food Pantry reopened two months ago in a new location in Alton.
"Last week we had about 75 people come," said Gertie Smith of Riverbend, "We are trying to get the word out that we are open. We're afraid there are people in need who don't know it."
Connections with food
Restaurants providing lunch - lamb to sliders, soup to cookies - were happy to make direct contact with the Foodbank, as well as assist it through the book. Michelle Tinker, event coordinator for Growlers Pub in Creve Coeur and Sunset Hills, said she would look for new ways to divert resources to the organization.
Jim McInroy, co-owner of Amici's Italian Restaurant in Kirkwood, said, "It's a way to recognize and help a group that needs help right now at a critical time." Amici's shared its private recipe for tiramisu.
Craig Basler, executive chef at Lester's in Ladue and Chesterfield, provided a recipe for Herb Pork Loin Chops, seasoned with mustard, coriander and fennel seeds. His staff liked being part of the project.
"It was easy to agree to participate," he said. "You keep hearing how the number of people needing food is growing every week."
For Greg Tournillon, chef-owner of Foodies Marketplace and Deli in Chesterfield, the book provides an opportunity to pay back to the community, as well as share the unique nature of independent restaurants. True to his New Orleans roots, he served Jambalaya.
Fenton Bar and Grill's Chris Gurley called it a "privilege to be invited." While getting food into needy people's hands is important, he said, cash to support it also is necessary. He offered Stuffed Green Pepper Soup, his recipe in the book.
Finnegan of the Foodbank said moving to a larger warehouse in Earth City two years ago allows it to provide more assistance. He dreams of using the 13-acre site for another type of food delivery: raised beds for people to grow their own.
The spirit of people helping people was contagious. Restaurants gave their extra food to any agency that could take it back.
Lena LeBeaume of Stefanina's Pizzeria and Restaurant in O'Fallon and St. Charles offered sesame seed cookies, made in the Italian tradition, as take-home extras.
"It's what families do," she said.
"EnjoyaLocal at Home!"
What: Cookbook with coupons from 100 independently owned, local restaurants in the metropolitan area.
What's inside: Each participating restaurant has its profile, a recipe and a coupon for $5 off a $20 purchase or free kid's meal (good until May 2010).
How to buy: At participating restaurants, listed at http://www.enjoyalocal.com. Order online at same site.
Benefit: St. Louis Area Foodbank, assisting 68,000 people weekly.