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Dierbergs Markets contributed nearly 2 million pounds of food to “Operation Food Search” (OFS) — the largest distributor of free food to those in need in the St. Louis bi-state region — during 2009.
The family-held chain’s total donations came to 1.9 pounds of unsold or overstocked foods from 23 stores and its central kitchen and baking facility, which becomes part of OFS’ monthly distributions to a network of 250 community partner agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, orphanages and senior centers. Each month, more than 120,000 people in the area, nearly half of whom are children, receive food assistance through this network.
St Louis-based Dierbergs’ donations amount to about 9 percent of OFS’ annual collection of more than 22 million pounds of food and household items each year. During its 2009 fiscal year ended Sept. 30, the program received food donations from about 245 companies, restaurants and community organizations in a 10-state region. The food is then exclusively distributed to the needy throughout Missouri and Illinois.
Each Dierbergs store, on average, donates more than 82,000 pounds of food annually to OFS, the equivalent of three-quarters of a ton per store, per week year-round. On a per-store basis, that’s more than any other food retailer supporting OFS.
As its first supermarket partner, Dierbergs’ relationship with OFS dates to the charitable organization’s earliest days of incorporation as a nonprofit agency in 1981. In addition to making food donations, the regional independent also hosts customer food drives throughout the year during peak times of need.
“Dierbergs has a long history with our organization,” said Sunny Schaefer, executive director of St. Louis-based OFS. “From the beginning, Dierbergs took a lead in food donations and, in doing so, provided the necessary leadership for the program to grow. This was at a time prior to ‘good Samaritan’ liability statutes that now protect companies making good-faith food donations for distribution to those in need.”
One such food drive is now underway, for which all Dierbergs stores are participating as drop-off points for food donations to OFS throughout the holidays. Each store has pre-packaged grocery bags filled with basic food staples that can be purchased for under $5 or $10 and placed in the OSF bin in the store, or dropped off at any local food pantry. Customers can also make donations at any checkout stand, with coupons for $1, $5 and $10 benefiting OFS and the fight against poverty and hunger. All of the customer donations are above and beyond Dierbergs’ annual contributions of more than 1.9 million pounds of food.
“For hungry people in our area, these bags and donations at Dierbergs checkouts are a wonderful gift,” said Schaefer. “They offer hope to an empty cupboard.”