As part of its response to the COVID-19 crisis, Washington University in St. Louis has partnered with Park Central Development and St. Louis Food Angels to deliver groceries to nearby families. But the program offers more than free fresh produce and staples such as milk, eggs and pasta — it connects residents to important resources at a time when many are suffering from social isolation and economic uncertainty.
“We work with every family to identify their needs,” said Linda Nguyen, Park Central’s coordinator of neighborhood initiatives and engagement and a 2015 graduate of the Brown School. “Do they need assistance with their utility bills? Do they know how to access government programs? Are they able to get to their medical appointments? The grocery delivery program allows us to meet community needs in a much more comprehensive way.”
Formed in 2009 and supported by Washington University, Park Central Development Corp. provides services to residents; attracts investment; spearheads infrastructure projects; and hosts community events in the neighborhoods of Forest Park Southeast, the Central West End, Fountain Park, Lewis Place and Academy/Sherman Park.
With university funding, it launched the grocery program in March in Forest Park Southeast, providing 100 families with groceries purchased from City Greens Market, a local nonprofit. Park Central now is serving neighborhoods north of Delmar Boulevard for the months of May and June, providing an additional 250 families with groceries from locally owned Fields Foods and a gift card to an East Delmar Loop restaurant. St. Louis Food Angels, an affiliate of Sling Health composed of School of Medicine students and other volunteers, provides no-contact delivery.
“Our goal is to not only help out neighbors in need but to support the local businesses that provide jobs and keep our community vibrant,” said Henry S. Webber, the university’s executive vice chancellor and chief administrative officer.
To that end, the university has purchased more than 3,500 lunches for university essential workers, municipal first responders and U.S. Postal Service employees. “It’s a gesture of solidarity to a terrific community that supports and sustains us at Washington University,” he said.