St. Louis region celebrates first-ever “Thanksgiving Together”

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Operation Food Search (OFS), a nonprofit hunger relief program, and St. Louis Area Foodbank, the region’s largest nonprofit food provider, made history on Tuesday.

OFS and St. Louis Area Foodbank came together for the holidays to host a food distribution event, for the first time since both organizations were founded, called Thanksgiving Together.

“Both organizations, the OFS and the Foodbank, are great organizations that are both serving and strengthening our communities,” Meredith Knopp, president and CEO of St. Louis Area Foodbank, said. “We both do things in unique ways, so we decided why don’t we combine our forces and focus on what we both do and just be exceptional.”

From 10:00 am until 2:00 pm 1,000 families in need, who were given food vouchers before the event, had the opportunity to receive all of the necessary ingredients to create a holiday meal.

Thanksgiving Together volunteers get bags ready with food products for families (DANIELLE MAE FRANKLIN/CLAYTON TIMES)

Due to the cold weather, OFS and St. Louis Foodbank volunteers had families lineup in their vehicles in order to get their food supplies for the holiday meals. Approximately 100 volunteers showed up to sort products into bags and place items into vehicles for families.

“I want to thank our financial supporters and in-kind sponsors who made this event possible,” Sunny Schaefer, executive director of Operation Food Search, said. “We are happy to be collaborating with the St. Louis Area Foodbank on this event and the volunteers and the staff that have put this together. They have been so helpful and it has just been a great experience.”

St. Louis Area Foodbank provided 1,000 ready-to-cook turkeys and hams as well as boxes filled with complimentary sides to complete the holiday meal. In addition to the turkeys and hams, St. Louis Area Foodbank distributed over 30,000 pounds of food including stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and more.

OFS held onsite cooking demonstrations, by their registered dietitians, which focused on a healthy breakfast and yummy dessert. Participants of the cooking demonstrations received all of the ingredients for both meals as well as recipe cards so that they can replicate the breakfast and dessert at home and know what to do with any leftovers.

OFS dietitians give cooking demonstrations (DANIELLE MAE FRANKLIN/CLAYTON TIMES)

Residents in the region were also able to participate in the giving season by donating canned and boxed items to both of the organizations.

“This time of year if a very happy time of year but for many people it’s a sad time of year,” Schaefer said. “We hope that those people who are struggling that their burden lightens and that the people who come to get the Thanksgiving meal today have a great, festive Thanksgiving. We also want to convey to them that there are many people in our community that care about them.”

OFS and St. Louis Area Foodbank plan to host Thanksgiving Together again next year in hopes to continue with the spirit of giving and address the problem of hunger in the area.