Even with a rise in cases of COVID across Missouri, many things are returning to a pre-pandemic status, including unemployment benefits.
Agencies that provide need-based services are now seeing an increase in the need for help. Feed My People, for example, has seen a 27% increase in visits since extensions to unemployment assistance ended in Missouri on June 12.
Feed My People’s mission is to provide God’s love and compassion to neighbors in need. Founded in 1962 in south St. Louis County, the organization has church and community partners, including nine Catholic parishes, working together to give people in need hope for a brighter future. It added a program in High Ridge in 1997.
Feed My People executive director Karen Lanter said that the organization looked at the monthly average since January of 2021 and noticed the increase in the last month. On average, the organization serves about 1,000 people a week between its two locations.
The Missouri Department of Labor announced that Missouri will no longer participate in the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program after the week of June 12. During the pandemic, regular unemployment benefits were extended beyond the traditional 20 weeks.
“Our numbers were down with the extended unemployment, and people are coming back,” Lanter said. “It just speaks to the need within the community. You can’t count on the government forever. We need to help take care of each other.”
Feed My People’s South County location recently launched a Transformation Program, which looks at a person’s needs beyond food assistance. “When people come in, they sit with our intake person and describe their food needs,” Lanter said. “They’re given a slip of paper that allows them to check off things that they need,” which includes spiritual and emotional support, clothing and household items, transportation needs and help with applying for jobs, among other areas. Clients are connected to other community resources that go beyond Feed My People’s scope, such as job training.
of St. Louis
At St. Patrick Center, rental assistance and case management/counseling have been among the top two needs among clients in the past month and a half, since the extended unemployment benefits ended, said Joseph Gregory, data quality manager.
Also increasing is employment research, another service provided by St. Patrick Center, a federated agency of Catholic Charities of St. Louis, which is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal. General information inquiries at St. Patrick Center also more than doubled, Gregory noted.
Gregory said that anecdotally, case managers have been talking about an increase in need, now that extended unemployment benefits have ended and the eviction moratorium is expected to end July 31.
“We have been growing to keep up with the need,” Gregory said. “We’re doing everything we can to help. To see this happening in such a short window … the ripple effect of things are going to be longstanding.”
Society of St. Vincent
Requests for help to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Archdiocesan Council, had declined in the past several months, but some conferences are seeing an uptick in calls for assistance, said Julie Komanetsky, director of programs and strategic partnerships.
“Requests for help had declined in the past several months, which we attributed to many factors including stimulus checks, increased unemployment benefits, and the eviction moratorium,” Komanetsky said.
St. Vincent de Paul conferences in areas hardest hit by the pandemic are seeing a renewed interest in help. “Some of this may be the result of the change in unemployment, but the eviction moratorium is coming to an end, and that is also a concern for many who are behind in their rent,” Komanetsky said. “We expect to see an increase in requests for assistance.”
>> The power of choice
Feed My People, which serves more than 1,000 people a week with food, onsite thrift stores and other support services, recently unveiled its plan for a food pantry modernization giving clients a choice in the food the receive from the south St. Louis County pantry.
The location suffers from old pipes, outdated wiring and a jumbled layout. A fundraising campaign already has raised about $443,000 toward its $660,000 goal.
With the new layout, customers will be able to shop for themselves in a grocery environment, making their own healthy food choices to support preferences, dietary requirements and nutritional needs.
The approach helps tailor food procurement, honors personal food preferences and needs, simplifies inventory management, and redirects the labor of hundreds of volunteers from filling bags and boxes to engaging in more meaningful and helpful ways.
Feed My People will remain open during the renovation, which is expected to begin in the fall. To learn more about the renovation or to make a contribution, see www.feed-my-people.org/pantry-renovation.
>>How you can help
Feed My People
Feed My People is seeking volunteers for its locations in south St. Louis County or High Ridge. For information, call Stephanie at (314) 631-4900, ext. 315. The South County site is at 171 Kingston Drive; the High Ridge site is at 3295 Ottomeyer Road.
Ten archdiocesan parishes and schools are church partners, offering support to the pantry. They include Annunciation, Assumption, Mary Mother of The Church, St. Bernadette, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Gabriel, St. Gerard Majella, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, St. Matthias and St. Peter School.
Feed My People relies on fundraisers, individual donations and grants to fulfill its mission. For information, visit feed-my-people.org.
Donations can be made to Catholic Charities of St. Louis at https://www.ccstl.org/get-involved/donate/ or at the websites of the various agencies.
>> SNAP benefits
A new analysis shows that higher Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits approved last year still do not cover the average meal cost in more than four in 10 counties in the United States. That’s according to research from the Urban Institute, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A new mapping tool compares the maximum SNAP meal benefit with the national average meal cost of $2.41 and finds that even the higher SNAP benefits still fall short for residents of both urban and rural counties.
In St. Louis City and County, the SNAP benefit per meal is $1.97, while the average low-income meal cost in the city is $2.63; in the county it is $2.57.
Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation