Mobile food pantry feeds a need in struggling areas

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer

Over the last couple months, families and the elderly at two locations in Warren County have received supplies of canned and fresh food from a service that aims to become an ongoing source of hope for the hungry.

Since April, a mobile food pantry operated by Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service has come almost every Thursday to Bruer Park in Truesdale and the Brookview Senior Apartments in Wright City. The mobile pantry, which operates out of a refrigerated truck, also makes stops in St. Charles and Lincoln counties.

Except for maintenance at the end of each month or days with bad weather, the aim is for this to be a permanent, weekly service, said program supervisor Michelle Ritter.

The Care Service is based out of Sts. Joachim and Ann Church in St. Peters. Ritter said their nonprofit started the mobile food pantry in response to growing food insecurity in areas where people didn’t have easy transportation to visit a pantry facility.

She explained that for people living in poverty, meeting their fundamental needs of food and shelter provides them with stability to begin addressing their other needs. Helping with those needs allows the recipients to focus their limited money on other needs such as paying for utility bills or healthcare.

Ritter said the mobile service is also a way to get people connected with case managers who can provide more extensive assistance.

“When you’re working with clients who are at high risk or in crisis, it’s not just ‘one and done,’” she elaborated. “We can’t just pay someone’s rent, because the next month they’re still going to be struggling with those resources. … Our goal is to walk alongside our clients and connect them to resources.”

The mobile food pantry sees several dozen customers each time it visits Warren County, Ritter said. Many of them have become regular recipients of food assistance.

The clients are people of all ages, who have found themselves with financial struggles for various reasons. Many of their stories emphasize that just one bad day can cascade into struggles with job loss or poverty.

“One of the families we work with … has eight children and one income. We help them make their means go farther. We help with a lot of seniors and get to know them,” Ritter said. “We want them to know they matter.”

Vicki Johnson, one of the staff with the food pantry, said she’s been inspired by the people she’s met and served through the mobile service.

“What you find out about people who are the poorest of the poor, is that all they want to do is help somebody else,” Johnson said. Despite their own struggles, she said they do whatever they can to share the shelter and resources they have with other people in similar situations.

“It builds community,” agreed volunteer Thom Johnson. “It’s not just helping them out with their food needs. It’s helping them connect. … I think we get as much out of it as they do.”

As with any nonprofit, the greatest ongoing challenge for operating the mobile food pantry is funding. Donations of food and hygiene products also do a lot of good, Ritter said.

Anyone interested in supporting the mobile food service can call the Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service at 636-441-1302, or email info@jacares.org.

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