Getting Nutritious Food to the Community

Operation Food Search (OFS) sources, stores and sorts millions of pounds of food and other essentials every year before providing them—free of charge—to our network of more than 330 community partners. Our partners then give the food directly to the people they serve.

  • Donated and rescued food is sorted at OFS and picked up by our Community Food Partner Agencies, such as food pantries, shelters and other community sites.
  • We also deliver food directly to schools and other organizations for distribution in their communities.
  • With the help of partners, such as the St. Louis County Library, the Urban League, Beyond Housing, Catholic Charities and more, we use drive-through or walk-up distribution to provide child meals, family meal kits and fresh produce.

How It Works

Food is collected through food drives, with 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.

Our warehouse distribution process incorporates safety protocols that enhance food safety and comply with social distancing specifications for our partners when they pick up. Our process emphasizes quality control based upon less interaction with multiple sources.  Prior to the pandemic, community food partners (food pantries) entered OFS’s warehouse to receive pre-loaded dry goods carts.  This was followed by the time-consuming task of partners sorting and gathering their own refrigerated fresh food and bread items.

Today the number of people who are allowed to enter the warehouse is limited.  OFS personnel now sort and pack food boxes to ensure better quality control, which simultaneously increases the amount of healthier and more diverse selections.  The organized boxes contain a similar mix of fresh produce, dairy and bread for each pantry partner.  Streamlining the distribution process allows immediate access and quicker turnaround for perishable produce boxes.

Learn more about our partner network here.