Fighting hunger in a pandemic

Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service deals with many challenges keeping its food bank up and running as demand increases

By Brett Auten

During these restless and challenging times, the Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service is the little engine that could.

When trying to feed the vulnerable during a pandemic, you need all hands on deck. But since the COVID-19 outbreak, and its high susceptibility to older adults, the care service has been short-staffed. According to the Center of Disease Control, eight-out-of-10 deaths reported in the United States have been in adults 65-years-old or older. A huge chunk of the care service’s volunteers fit into that age group and thus, it is put to its greatest test in its nearly 40-year history.

Normally, 70 volunteers are shuffling in and out throughout the week. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, officials have told the older volunteers to stay home to be safe. So now, around 25 eager and abled volunteers are shouldering the brunt.

“The workload had doubled and we can’t take on any new volunteers because we want as few people in and out of the building as possible,” Pamela Struckhoff, Director of Program Services, said. “What took one hour, now takes two-and-a-half. We have volunteers who have been with us from the start who are just aching to come back.”

Its COVID-19’s destruction of the employment force that has care service officials concerned for the upcoming months.

Between March 14 and April 18, 398,479 Missourians filed new unemployment claims, almost 13-percent of the state’s labor force. That is more than double the 179,831 initial claims Missourians filed in all of 2019. Between March 14 and April 18, over 26 million Americans have filed new unemployment claims, almost 16 percent of the national labor force. The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Division of Employment Security reported more than 100,000 unemployment claims for the week ending on March 28. More than 89,000 of the 104,230 claims were COVID-19 related, according to a press release.

“I don’t think (the care service) has seen the full effect yet,” Pamela Struckhoff, Director of Program Services, said. “What happens after they start turning the power off? Or the eviction notices come? Or when the $200 bill is now a $600?”

The unemployment spike has resulted in some new, albeit shy and reserved, faces coming into the food service. Before the pandemic, you had to income qualify to receive services, but that stipulation has been waved since the onset of COVID-19.

“There are people who you would think of as ‘middle class’ coming in,” Struckhoff said. “They come in and say, ‘but there are more deserving.’ It’s not about deserving. Do you need help? Here’s help.”

The Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service is a nationally accredited nonprofit, faith-based organization and is the largest comprehensive social support agency in the region serving St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren counties.

Every day brings a new challenge and the paired-down staff is adapting daily and creatively solving problems so that it will be able to continue to live out its mission to serve those in crisis and not let them fall through the cracks of society.

In addition to its day-to-day routine, over the past two weeks the food service has adapted to curbside pick-up so it could continue to meet the nutritional needs of the 125 food families it serves while following social distancing guidelines and a registered nurse is on board to assist with phone check-ins with the homeless placed in shelter.

It has collaborated with churches, community agencies and St. Charles County schools to help feed the families of students identified by school counselors as the most vulnerable. The agency contributed 10,000-pounds of food, $3,900 in canned and dry goods from its inventory, and purchased $5,200 of food to contribute to the effort.

Food boxes have been strategically placed – and will be replenished weekly – in all three counties so unsheltered homeless will have access to food when its staff are unable to see them.

A diaper/wipes giveaway is planned for late April/May to help families with young children in all three counties it serves. The agency continues to work in close collaboration with the Continuum of Care and the St. Charles County Health Department to locate temporary housing for the homeless during this crisis.

If you are wanting to help the cause there are a few options. You can make a cash donation to Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service. All cash donations made to a charity are eligible for a $300 tax credit through the CARES Act. Visit for more information. You can make a food donation by making drops inside shopping cart located at the front entrance of the Care Service, located at 4116 McClay Road in St. Charles) is available for drop offs. You could also purchase a Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service T-shirt from Shirt Kong’s online fundraiser by clicking here. The shirt will ship for free and $10 from every shirt sold will be donated to the Care Service to help its COVID-19 Relief Effort.

“The Care Service was founded to serve those in crisis, and I am determined that we will continue to be there for them over the weeks and months to come, when they may need us more than ever before,” Struckhoff said. “We cannot fail those who rely on us.”