ozark food pantry

Sisters Grace, left, and Mila Boyer with some of the 300 food items collected during the food drive they spearheaded during the holidays.

The Ozark Food Pantry, based in Festus, needs more help than ever to provide for local residents in need, said Carmelita Davidson, the organization’s president.

She said the number of people who struggle to put food on their table has grown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There is more demand,” Davidson said. “Before the COVID pandemic, we served five ZIP codes – Festus, Hematite, Crystal City, Pevely and Herculaneum. Now, we’re serving anybody.”

She said the St. Louis Area Foodbank provides the Ozark Food Pantry with a lot of the items it distributes to those in need, but the pantry also relies on donations from the public.

“I talked to the St. Louis Area Foodbank,” Davidson said. “I told them as long as they send us our food, I will open the doors to anybody who needs it.”

With the demand for assistance up, the food pantry, a nonprofit organization, is asking local residents and civic groups for donations of food and cash.

“Right now, we need things like dry goods, jellies, pancake syrup. We have pancake mix. We can use more donations from the general public.”

She said people from a wider area are visiting the Ozark Food Pantry, 1 Sunset Park Trail, in Sunset Park. They cannot enter the building during the pandemic but obtain their food in a drive-thru system.

“We’ve gotten clients from Cadet, Farmington, Bloomsdale and other neighboring communities (in addition to the organization’s original service area),” Davidson said. “A lot of people have lost their jobs. They’ve got to eat.”

Davidson said any help the food pantry receives is appreciated, like the recent donation from a Festus-area family that held a food drive and collected about 300 items for the pantry during the Christmas season.

Alyssa Boyer said her step-daughters,10-year-old Grace Boyer and 5-year-old Mila Boyer, actually got the ball rolling for the food drive.

The Boyers got permission from two Twin City businesses – Tranquility Salon & Spa and Barks N’ Bubbles Dog Grooming – to place containers at their locations to collect for the food drive.

“We were just stuck at home during COVID and wanted to help,” Boyer said. “We stuck a container on our front porch, as well as the ones at the businesses.”

She said the girls, who attend Jefferson R-7 schools, came up with a slogan for their food drive.

“The girls came up with ‘Kids can change the world, one can at a time,’” Boyer said. “I think they’ll do it again. They really liked it.”

Davidson said she also liked the girls’ initiative.

“We appreciate the effort the children did with their parents’ assistance,” Davidson said. “We’re really grateful we live in a community that supports our work. All we have to do is ask.”

The Ozark Food Pantry distributes food to caregivers from 11 a.m. to noon on Fridays and to clients from 8:30-10:45 a.m. on Saturdays.

For more information about the organization, visit ozarkfoodpantry.com or call the pantry at 636-933-9974.