Limited access to healthy food affects people’s ability to have a complete and balanced diet. This places more children and adults at risk of obesity and many other diet-related health conditions. It’s a known fact that lack of transportation creates a barrier for many people to reach Missouri’s food banks and pantries. In fact, Missouri ranks among the top ten states with the highest percentage of food-insecure households according to the Missouri Hunger Atlas. Over 800,000 individuals and about 400,000 households in Missouri struggle with food insecurity.
One of the many important services OATS Transit provides is transportation for essential shopping. This can be as simple as a trip to a local food pantry. Food pantries, also known as commodity sites, are where hungry families can receive food and other daily living essentials. OATS Transit provides a way for people all over the state to access food pantries in their area.
OATS Transit Regional Director, Dion Knipp, oversees OATS Transit service to food pantries throughout Central Missouri. He expressed the importance of these services for many Missourians. “Food pantries provide vital assistance to residents who suffer from hunger and food insecurity,” said Knipp.
Crosslines, a Laclede county food pantry, is a USDA commodity site where qualified individuals and families can get food, clothing, household items and sometimes financial assistance. According to the 2018 Director’s Report, they served over eighteen thousand individuals last year. Crosslines Executive Director, Viola Blankenship, has worked at the Pantry for the past 29 years. She interacts with a lot of people who say they don’t have a way to get themselves to the Pantry. Blankenship suggests OATS Transit’s services to those who need help.
“I’m glad [OATS Transit] is in this community because we need it,” Blankenship said. “There’s some elderly and individuals with disabilities who may starve if they didn’t have OATS to transport them back and forth.”
For close to two decades, Kathy Mudloff has ridden OATS Transit. The bus takes her many places including the doctor’s office and other places in her community. She also rides the OATS Transit bus to do her essential shopping. Mudloff receives assistance from Crosslines and a few other local pantries to supply her with the food that she needs to live. Because she doesn’t have any other transportation options available to her, she relies on OATS Transit a few times a month to get food. “I like to cook,” Mudloff said. “OATS Transit is my only way to get to the food pantry so I can cook for myself,” Mudloff added. She is very thankful for the services and praises her drivers. Robin Ballhagen is one of those drivers.
Ballhagen drives in Laclede County and takes many of her riders to local pantries several times a month. She has come to understand the importance of these trips over the past seven years she’s been at OATS Transit. She knows that the pantries are a primary source of food for some. “Most of my riders don’t have family, so they rely on us to get to the food pantry,” Ballhagen said.
For more information on transportation to a food pantry in your area, view our schedules here, or give us a call at 888-875-6287. If your local food pantry isn’t on our schedule, let them know why our services are important to you, and why they should partner with OATS Transit, to get you and your friends or family to their facilities.