Photo courtesy of Wine Women & Shoes

Food in America is more than a necessary aspect of survival: It’s a part of our language, culture and social experience. We gather around meals. Our idioms and phrases make food references. We represent and define areas and events by the meals or snacks that coincide. While this may be many people’s America, dinner isn’t on the table for every family. Despite misconceptions about hunger, a lack of food is a sincere problem for Americans every day, including the approximately 57,100 individuals who depend weekly on the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Started in 1975, the St. Louis Area Foodbank provided 135,000 pounds of food in its first year, according to the organization’s website. Almost four decades later, the organization is responsible for distributing more than 25 million pounds of food to 26 counties in Missouri and Illinois. The organization may have grown immensely—but so has the need, which seems ever-increasing.

According to the 2010 Hunger Study, here in the U.S., one in eight people depends on the Feeding America network, of which St. Louis Area Foodbank is a member.

“The vast majority of the people we’re trying to feed are probably working, they’re just working poor,” says Foodbank president and CEO, Frank Finnegan, noting the effect caused by the 1990s decrease in manufacturing jobs and increase in service jobs. “If you’re making close to minimum wage or a little bit more, it doesn’t keep pace with the cost of housing, the cost of utilities, the cost of transportation—and, of course, those bills are always going to take priority, so what’s left over is what you spend on food.”

Finnegan explains the inherent problems of hunger. “If you’re a child and you’re hungry, you’re not going to be able to focus in school, or if you’re a senior citizen living on a fixed income and you can’t eat nutritionally, chances are you’re not receiving the full benefit from the medications you’re taking.”

Benefiting the St. Louis Area Foodbank is the upcoming Wine Women & Shoes event at The Ritz-Carlton. Featuring the best reds and whites—plus shopping and auctions—this event will be a “fantastic good time,” says board member and event co-chair Barbara Bunning-Stevens. She notes other event highlights include a Best in Shoe contest, a red carpet and, of course, the ‘Shoe Guys’—volunteers who greet guests, pour wine, deliver shoes on silver platters, and maybe even are “a little flirty, to get guests in the mood to bid!”

Another notable happening includes the ‘Keys to the Closet’ raffle for a chance to win a closet full of items like gift certificates and designer goodies, approximately valued at $5,000. While the shoes and shopping are key elements, Bunning-Stevens stresses that attendees will be reminded of the Foodbank's No. 1 priority: feeding the hungry. Cheers to that.


ON THE COVER: Wine Women & Shoes takes place on Wednesday, May 29 at 6 p.m. at The Ritz-Carlton to benefit the St. Louis Area Foodbank. For more information, call 292-6262 or visit winewomenandshoes.com/stlouis2013.

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