May 13, 2021

The Salvation Army’s O’Fallon Branch is open for shopping again, post-COVID 19.

In late April, the O’Fallon food pantry, one of 13 such pantries in the St. Louis metro area, switched from a drive-by drop-off for food, prepackaged and without the same interpersonal dynamic, to coming inside the building to select foods personally, the way that would be done in a grocery, with a shopping cart.

The COVID-19 rules had been in effect since last year.

The O’Fallon pantry has a wrap-around layout with foods divided by section, with three or four items that are for the taking at each area. There are sections for fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen meats, snacks, bathroom and kitchen goods and international foods.

The nearby residents who come by for food are happy the old method is back and, with a deep tone of sincerity, say the food assistance is no less than a blessing.

“This is a godsend for me,” said Georgia Malone, who visits the pantry every two weeks or longer if her food at home is stocked. “If it wasn’t for this place, I could tell you my food wouldn’t be like it would be. I don’t have the extra money to buy food, and I don’t get food stamps.”

Malone explained of her situation, “I have to be on a certain type of diet for health reasons. They have mostly everything I need here. It’s what I do, and I thank God that they are here. Other that that, I don’t know what I would be doing.”

On a recent Monday morning, The Salvation Army Midland Division’s senior director of donations, Larry Hostetler, took a virtual tour through the pantry, led through by the O’Fallon corps’ Major Paul Ferguson.

“What you’re seeing is replicated everyday through vast parts of our area,” Hostetler said. “Nine days ago, we had an event in East St. Louis, where we helped 680 families and gave out about 1,000 food boxes that were pre-packaged. Our food pantries, for the most part, are operating on a different model. People are not handed a package of food. They’re allowed to shop for the food that’s best for them.”

Ferguson said inside while starting the tour, “The great thing about shopping is that they really do shop. It doesn’t cost anything. Pre-COVID, our system here was shopping. They would come, check in and get a cart. They go through and pick out what they need for their family. Which does two things – it maximizes efficiency of our food, very little gets wasted, and it provides a little more dignity. If we gave them a pre-packed box and said here you go, a lot of that gets wasted.”

O'Fallon Branch Walk-through
Corps officers, Majors Paul and AmyJo Ferguson and long time food pantry recipient 

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Related Content: COVID-19homelessLocal/Community SupportmidlandMOnonprofitSalvation ArmySt. Louis

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