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Food Outreach Provides Holiday Meals to Those in Need

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, Food Outreach is cooking up turkey and gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes and corn bread stuffing to bring holiday comfort and cheer to its hundreds of clients living with HIV and AIDS or cancer. The 33-year-old nonprofit, which provides nutritional support and counseling to both children and adults, is the only organization providing these services in Missouri and western Illinois.

Food Outreach’s clients are un- and underinsured individuals, the majority of whom live below the federal poverty level. They range in age from 17 to 90 years old and many have multiple secondary illnesses in addition to their primary diagnosis. The nonprofit’s nutritional services support the many treatments its clients are receiving for their diseases, and help to combat their co-morbidities such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease.

Philanthropy makes it possible for The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital to support Food Outreach with community grants. These awards are made to organizations outside of the BJC HealthCare system that align with Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s mission. These grants are just one example of the many ways the Foundation plays a critical role in carrying out BJC’s commitment to the care and concern for everyone’s health. Thanks to generous donors, philanthropic investments help to make our community a healthier and safer place to live.

“In this season of thanks, we have reasons to feel grateful every day,” says Julie Lock, executive director of Food Outreach. “Because of generous organizations like The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, we hear and receive appreciation, gratitude, enthusiasm and a sense of relief from our amazing clients.”

Since the beginning of 2021, Food Outreach enrolled 382 new clients bringing its total client base to 1,700. The organization’s services, which are provided at no cost to clients, include a prepared meal and grocery program designed by its staff chef and registered dietitian; individualized dietetic counseling, nutrition and cooking education classes; nutrition supplements; and both curbside and home meal delivery.

In its commercial kitchen, Food Outreach’s lead volunteers, the Red Aprons, oversee other volunteers who help the organization’s chefs to prep, cook and pack food into individual containers for freezing. Its frozen, portion-sized prepared meals and sides are the most unique part of its program. Food Outreach offers two meals per day in either 14-day or 28- day boxes, depending on a client’s preference.

Clients choose their food from menus that offer a wide variety of fresh produce, proteins including fish, meat, beans and nuts, and many shelf-stable groceries. During November, Food Outreach will cook and pack 10,560 meals that include a range of traditional Thanksgiving main dishes and sides.

"I enjoy volunteering with Food Outreach because I have the opportunity to create healthy and sustainable meals for people in need,” says Nick Hatfield, a long-time volunteer chef who is helping to prepare those meals.

Julie says Food Outreach depends on the work of Nick and the other more than 700 volunteers a year and would have to close its doors in less than a week without them.

Cheryl Gee, a member of Food Outreach’s board of directors and community advisory board, is another one of those volunteers.

“Volunteering at Food Outreach is such a rewarding, enjoyable experience,” she says. “Hands on volunteering gives you a feel-good experience. At the end of the day, it's all about helping others and that's what's important. I wish more people would consider lending a hand to those in need. You won't be disappointed with how you spent your day and how you donated your time to doing something meaningful."

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