Frequently Asked Questions

What is food insecurity?

Food insecurity is lack of access to adequate food because of limited money or other resources. Food insecurity can lead to the physical condition of hunger, which ranges from temporary discomfort to sustained, life-threatening undernourishment. Food insecure people are often forced to skip meals, eat less, buy cheap, non-nutritious food or feed their children but not themselves.

Food insecurity can cause numerous health problems and can damage a child’s ability to learn and grow. Food insecurity during pregnancy can lead to premature birth and/or infant mortality. People who are food insecure may have to choose between buying food and paying for medicine or healthcare, which can further damage health.

How many people are food insecure?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 37 million Americans were food insecure (more than 11%). That number was higher in Missouri (14.2%). With job losses and economic setbacks, food insecurity is now much higher, with estimates between 18 to 19% in Missouri. Feeding America states that one in four children in Missouri is now at risk of hunger.

What is Operation Food Search?

Operation Food Search (OFS) is a hunger relief organization that provides free food, nutrition education and innovative programs proven to reduce food insecurity. With a strategic focus aimed at ending childhood hunger, OFS empowers families and increases access to healthy and affordable food. Established in 1981 to address the growing problem of finding food for those who did not have enough to eat, Operation Food Search now works to both meet the immediate need for food and to address the root causes of hunger.

Where does Operation Food Search get the food?

Food is collected from food drives, through discounted purchases and from donations by the grocery industry, manufacturers and distributors. OFS also recovers leftover prepared food from dining facilities at hospitals, universities and other institutions. In addition, we have a gleaning program that enables us to rescue fresh food from farms that would otherwise be unharvested or wasted.

What kind of food is donated?

Collected food is both perishable and non-perishable. It is a true win-win situation for everyone involved because it is food that is no longer sellable but is still nutritious and healthy. We ensure that the food we distribute is not past its expiration date.

Does Operation Food Search accept home-prepared food?

Unfortunately, we are unable to accept food that is prepared at home.  However, we are able to accept food from your professionally catered events if it has not been served.

How can I donate food to Operation Food Search?

Food can be dropped off at our warehouse at 1644 Lotsie Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63132. Pickups can also be arranged for large donations. Please call 314-726-5355.

Visit our Food and Fund Drive page to learn more.

How does Operation Food Search distribute food?

Donated food is sorted at OFS and distributed to our nearly 200 Community Food Partner Agencies, such as food pantries, shelters and other community sites. We also get food directly to schools and other organizations for distribution to their communities. We use a drive-through distribution model as well, facilitated by partners, such as the St. Louis County Library, the Urban League, Beyond Housing, Catholic Charities and more.

How can my organization become a member agency?

We welcome agencies who are interested in forming partnerships. If your agency would like to participate, fill out our online application.

Apply Here

Do people receive food at the Operation Food Search warehouse?

No. OFS is a food bank, rather than a food pantry. We collect, safely store and distribute millions of pounds of food to smaller food pantries, shelters and other community sites, which then pass the food directly to the people they serve. If you or someone you know is hungry, contact our 24 hour hunger hotline at (314) 726-5355 to receive immediate food assistance through our partner agencies or check our find food map.

If I am hungry, how can I get food?

If you need food assistance, please call the Hunger Hotline at (314) 726-5355 or visit our Find Food Map for a location near you.

Find Food Map

How many individuals does Operation Food Search service each month?

Every month, OFS provides food and services to 200,000 people in the St. Louis bi-state region through a network of 330 partners.

How is Operation Food Search funded?

Individuals, corporations, foundations and organizations all provide financial support. For every dollar raised, we are able to leverage our partnerships to provide $10 worth of food and services to the community. If you would like to join our community of supporters, please visit our Donation page for more information and to make a tax-deductible gift.

How do I volunteer for Operation Food Search?

Volunteers with big hearts and a desire to solve hunger are welcome. We are always looking for new volunteers with a variety of skills. Visit our volunteer page to find out more.

How else can I help?

Sharing about our work on social media can help increase support for us in the community and get the word out to those who may need our services. We also invite you to visit our advocacy page to learn how you can lend your voice to the fight to heal hunger. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @OpFoodSearch.