Imagine for a moment that the last meal you ate today was going to be your last meal for an undetermined amount of time. Imagine what it would be like if you had to go to bed tonight with an empty stomach rumbling, groaning and keeping you from your sleep. When I was a child, my parents occasionally sent me or one of my siblings to bed without supper as a form of punishment for some wrong we had committed. That was a terrible punishment, but we always knew there would be a hearty breakfast waiting for us when we woke up. Tonight many children in Franklin County will go to bed with empty stomachs - and not because they were naughty! They will not wake up in homes where hearty breakfasts are being prepared. According to the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education website, 7,400 children in Franklin County receive free or reduced-fee meals at school every day. These meals are the only thing many of these children get to eat.
Hunger is a very real problem in Franklin County. According to the Missouri Hunger Atlas, nearly one fourth of Franklin County families experience "food insecurity." The USDA defines food insecurity as meaning "consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year." While government programs such as SNAP (food stamps) and WIC help families survive, many families in Franklin County also rely heavily on area food pantries.
Franklin County Area United Way provides funding to six food pantries: Agape Help House of Pacific, Community Outreach in Gerald, Loving Hearts Outreach and St. Peter's UCC in Washington, Meramec Community Mission in Sullivan, and Union Food Pantry. While our food pantries still have to depend on donations of food and money from local businesses and concerned citizens, the funding they receive from FCAUW goes a long way toward helping them keep food on their shelves. In addition to food, the food pantries stock personal hygiene items such as deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste, plus household items including toilet paper, laundry detergent, and dish washing liquid.
Thanks to the generosity of loyal Franklin County Area United Way supporters helping us complete a phenomenal campaign, we were able to present two of our smaller food pantries with an end-of-the-year "bonus" check of $1,500 in addition to their quarterly allocation. Jim Gephardt, a representative of St. Peter's UCC Food Pantry, said "We always appreciate United Way's support, but this year we relied on it more heavily than ever. The number of people coming to the food pantry spiked 30% in the last half of the year." Jan Brennan, long-time volunteer, said that United Way is the largest supporter of the Union Food Pantry. "We could not keep our doors open without United Way," Brennan stated, "and I just don't know what the many people who rely on us would do if that happened. In 2014, the food pantry served 1,980 families in the Union School District - a total of 5,240 adults and children."
It may sound trite, but believe me, we could not be more appreciative of all of you who donate to FCAUW. Just as the food pantries could not do what they do without us, we could not support them without you. So, before you fall asleep tonight, allow yourself to feel a moment of pride for the part you've played in preventing so many children from going to bed hungry, then sleep peacefully knowing you've done a good thing!