Nestled in the heart of North County, The Salvation Army food pantry at Stratford Commons is a special place where the community comes together to unite as a family.
Every Thursday morning at 9 a.m., the Stratford Commons food pantry disperses their various food donations from USDA commodities and outside donors to pantry clients. On the second Thursday of the month, The Stratford Commons Salvation Army hosts an outdoors pantry or ”mobile mart.” During this morning, tractor trailers from the St. Louis Area Food Bank drop off palates of food outside the pantry, and roughly 200 people from surrounding communities come to gather food supplies for their families.
Serving a large population, the Stratford Commons pantry has become the first call for help for those struggling in the community. For the past six years, Audrey McKinney, emergency social service caseworker at Stratford Commons, has passionately led this Salvation Army location to serve its community diligently and graciously as a primary resource for struggling families to receive proper food assistance.
“From fresh fruits and vegetables to bread and pastries, a variety of food comes into our pantry,” Audrey says proudly, “We are able to do more than feed families. I know that we make are making a difference in our community.”
Clients boast that The Salvation Army food pantry allows them to create full meals for their family, compared to meager portions of canned goods that other food banks offer. Residents also find comfort in knowing that The Salvation Army will not turn them away.
“We accept everyone with open arms,” says Audrey, “We can always offer them some type of assistance. From filling a food order or paying a bill, we can surely can help!”
Audrey is able to run the Stratford Commons food pantry smoothly thanks to a dedicated volunteer base that she claims is the “back bone” to this pantry.
“This is my happy place,” says Stratford volunteer Debbie Dancy with a smile, “I come here to relax, interact and serve.”
Debbie, along with many others, work closely to help families that might be experiencing hardships. Claiming they have been “blessed” by the Stratford Commons pantry, two St. Louis families have shared their stories below to express their gratitude towards The Salvation Army and its food assistance programs.
With three special needs children, Tricia Smallwood usually turned to The Salvation Army for assistance during Christmas time, visiting “Toy Town.” She felt comfort knowing that the gifts would bring joy to her children on Christmas morning.
About a year and a half ago, Tricia learned about The Salvation Army’s food pantry in Stratford Commons. She would make a visit twice a month in order to stock up on her family’s food supply. Receiving food support, Tricia has found a way to meet her children’s need for proper nutrition due to specific medications that require them to intake more food.
“We would be suffering without this food,” said Tricia. Being disabled herself, Tricia finds it a blessing and a challenge to support her children. She now relies consistently on The Salvation Army for food in order to keep her family happy and healthy.
“I like how The Salvation Army offers a variety of foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, canned food and drinks,” said Tricia. The Smallwood family receives food twice a month from The Salvation Army that allows this family to extend their food intake.
Over the past two years, Carneal Franklin has visited The Salvation Army food pantry in Stratford several times in order to receive assistance to feed her own two children. In the past two weeks, Carneal has decided to care for her six nieces and nephews while her sister completes a 90 day drug treatment program. Spending quality time with her family, Carneal has cherished this opportunity but has found it difficult to feed her household of nine. Furthermore, Carneal does not receive any additional support from food stamps or other assistance except minimal support from her brother.
Since the family cannot afford a car, Carneal walks 25 minutes to The Salvation Army food pantry at Stratford Commons. Receiving chicken, canned goods, juice, soda and vegetables, Carneal then carries all of the goods back to her home by herself.
“I love The Salvation Army, and I appreciate everything they do for me,” exclaimed Carneal. Ms. Franklin admits that without The Salvation Army’s food pantry, her family would not have any food at all.
“I pray to God to keep my family going during these stressful times,” admitted Carneal. “I am happy as long as everyone is cool, fed and dry.” While her home might be overcrowded, those who know Carneal says her outpouring of love for her family and her community is something to be emulated.
The Franklin family will continue to rely on The Salvation Army food pantry as a vital lifeline for their family. They believe that the nutrition and energy they receive from the goods are “blessings from God.”
Join The Salvation Army’s “Turn Up The Heat On Hunger” campaign to help #ENDHUNGER in St. Louis.
Stop by participating Walmart locations and make a food donation July 13, 14 and 15. Food bins will be available at each entrance or make a donation online.