There have been quite a few changes to the operation of the Cuba Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry over the past several months. The facility has a new location, a new manager, and new hours.
“Everyone says it’s wonderful, both our clientele and volunteers,” Administrator Linda Plank said. “Now we have everything in one location and we’re not strung out everywhere like we were in the old location.”
Plank took over the day-to-day operation of the Food Pantry on September 1, when the facility moved to its new location at 302 W. Spencer Street. Previously, she had worked for the state of Missouri since 1992 in both the Department of Social Services and the courts.
“Basically, I think I was hired because I have a lot of avenues to reach out to people who need help,” she said.
Along with its new location, the Food Pantry has new operating hours. The facility is now open Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon and Thursday evenings from 3:30 to 6 p.m., except when it is closed on the third Thursday when a community meal is served at the Lions Club Den. Note that the Pantry will be closed on Thanksgiving and this Friday.
Despite moving to a new building and changing its hours, the Food Pantry is busier than ever. According to Plank, the facility served more than 350 families and 900 individuals in October. That is an increase of about 33 percent over what they had been serving at their old location.
In order to get food from the Pantry, clients must meet certain income guidelines. Single people must have less than $1,302 in monthly income, while couples can make up to $1,762 per month and those amounts increase based on family size. In addition to regular food provided by the Pantry, senior citizens who use the program can also get a “senior box” that normally contains another 50 to 60 pounds of food each month.
When clients come to the center, they actually “shop” for items they want from designated areas. There is a wide variety of food available, including canned goods, fresh fruit, eggs (donated by Purina Farms), and dairy, along with personal hygiene products.
A large group of volunteers work to keep the shelves stocked. Planks said about 40 people volunteer regularly, but they could always use some extra help
In addition to the regular Food Pantry dates, the facility operates a “Mobile Market” in cooperation with the St. Louis Community Food Bank. The market is normally held at Hood Park but is moving to the Food Pantry for the winter months.
During the Mobile Market, which is held on the third Tuesday of every month, the Food Bank delivers 14 pallets of food to be distributed in Cuba. Volunteers then box up the food and put it right into cars as clients drive through for the delivery.
“(On November 19), we served about 350 cars at Hood Park,” said Plank. “They get fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy products…we don’t know exactly what we are going to get, but the people are told they are going to get a lot so they can share with their friends and neighbors. It’s all about feeding the community.”
The Mobile Market will move back to Hood Park in March. That is also when the Pantry will host one of its two “Food Fairs,” the other coming in September. At those special events, the Food Bank delivers twice as much food to Cuba for the program.
For the Christmas season, the Food Pantry will be distributing food packages at a special event to be held at Recklein Auditorium. The cost of the program is more than $5,000 and the facility is currently in need of both monetary and food donations to make it successful.
They will also accept Christmas presents for the program. Anyone wanting to purchase a present for a child should wrap it and write on the outside whether it is for a boy or a girl and what age child should receive it. Ministerial Alliance churches will then distribute the toys at Christmas.
The Cuba Ministerial Alliance is a certified non-profit organization, so all donations are tax-deductible. For more information, to volunteer, or to apply for services, visit the Food Pantry during regular hours or call 573-885-6703.