When a local woman’s battle with cancer left her exhausted from chemotherapy treatments and unable to afford nutritious meals, Food Outreach was there. “Without Food Outreach, I would not have been able to maintain a healthy diet, which is critical to my recovery,” she says.
Food Outreach provides life-saving nutrition for those who are battling cancer or HIV/AIDS across the greater St. Louis region. In 2012, the organization served more than half a million nutritious meals to 2,000 people at no cost—5 percent more than the previous year. Its comprehensive nutrition program provides freshly prepared frozen meals, groceries, nutritional supplements, cooking and nutrition education classes, a congregate lunch program, meal home delivery, and counseling from registered dietitians for cancer or HIV/AIDS clients.
“We serve the most vulnerable in our community—low-income men, women and children battling a life-threatening illness,” notes executive director Greg Lukeman. And clients are so grateful for the support, they often join Food Outreach’s 600-member volunteer team to give back. “It encourages them, and it helps them feel better about being a client because they are contributing to making it all possible,” Lukeman says.
Now celebrating its 25th year, the nonprofit has launched several new initiatives to expand its footprint even further. First, Food Outreach is recruiting 25 local schools and businesses to hold food drives in its honor. In addition, Scottrade Center is competing in a Financial Food Fight—creating structures from packages of food they collect, then holding an employee vote for its favorite. Through another initiative, At Home with Food Outreach, the organization is asking 25 area households to host a cocktail party or a formal or casual dinner, and invite their guests to donate to the cause. Lukeman says about a dozen organizations already have held food drives and At Home with Food Outreach also is gaining interest and momentum. What’s more, Food Outreach is enlisting 25 chefs and caterers to help with its special Monday Lunch Program, where clients are served a three-course, fine restaurant-style meal on upscale accommodations in the agency's dining room.
Continuing with its 25th anniversary theme, Food Outreach’s largest fundraiser, A Tasteful Affair, will recognize its history with a return to the organization’s 1988 roots. The event, coinciding with World Health Day on April 7, will have an ’80s flair at the Four Seasons Hotel. Fine cuisine will be available from more than 40 of the area's best restaurants and caterers, with some hosting live cooking demonstrations. Unique items also will be up for bids during silent and live auctions. And for a VIP experience, complimentary cocktails, entertainment and upscale food tastings will be offered in a private lounge.
Proceeds from the event will help grow Food Outreach’s programs, including making its services even more convenient for those with limited transportation. To that end, the nonprofit plans to expand its home delivery meal program. Additionally, Lukeman says the Schnucks specialty pharmacy located in Food Outreach’s lobby will not only offer pharmacists’ advice, but also dispense medicine. “This way, clients can pick up medications when they are getting food. It will be a one-stop shop that will better serve them, especially those who take public transportation.”
Lukeman looks forward to Food Outreach’s future expansion and continuing its mission to reach everyone with cancer and HIV/AIDS who needs nutritional assistance. “We’ve never had a waiting list in 25 years.”
ON THE COVER: Food Outreach will celebrate its 25th anniversary with A Tasteful Affair on April 7 at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis. Pictured: board president David Kehm, executive director Greg Lukeman, board member Denise Phelabaum-Evans, board VP Sarah Kramer, board member Steven Sullivan, board member Lee Kling. For more information, call 652-3663 (FOOD) or visit foodoutreach.org.