August has a number of great shows coming up. We’ll try and highlight a few that we’re looking forward to over the next few days.
One we’re incredibly excited about is Hunger is No Joke, a benefit for the St. Louis Area Foodbank. It’s an evening of comedy starring Maria Bamford, and featuring Tim Convy, Joe Murray, Ella Fritts, and Hayden Kristal on August 5, 2017 at The Pageant.
We asked the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s communications director, Ryan Farmer, a few questions about the upcoming show.
Maria Bamford is an amazing comic, and it’s great to see her working to help the community. How did she become involved in this event?
We’re thrilled to have Maria Bamford as our headliner for this year’s Hunger Is No Joke event. This is our fifth year hosting the event, and each year we strive to find a comic who will entertain the crowd while helping the St. Louis Area Foodbank raise awareness around the issue of hunger in the bi-state region. Past headliners include Mike Birbiglia, John Mulaney, The Sklar Brothers, and Colin Jost. We feel that Maria carries on the tradition of incredibly funny performers and feel lucky that she was available on the date of our event.
Tell us a little bit about your organization’s mission?
The St. Louis Area Foodbank has been serving the community since 1975. Our mission is to feed hungry people by distributing food throughout the bi-state region and engage our community in the fight against hunger. We work to acquire food from a variety of sources and then distribute it to partner agencies all across our service territory. Last year alone, the Foodbank helped provide more than 34 million meals to over 392,000 of our neighbors in need.
What actions does your organization take to accomplish that mission?
The Foodbank accomplishes that mission through a network of more than 500 area partner agencies located throughout 26 counties in the bi-state region (14 in MO and 12 in IL). Partner agencies include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other nonprofit feeding programs.
The Foodbank has relationships in the food industry – both locally and nationally. Those relationships include, but are not limited to, manufacturers, farmers, the USDA, and more than 230 regional retail partners. We also rely on the support of the community – food drives, corporate donations, etc. All those food sources help stock our shelves and, in turn, the shelves of our partner agencies.
We are never the only source of food for our partner agencies, but we are often the primary source. Our partner agencies work on the front lines in our efforts to feed people. So much of what we do is about building relationships and fostering partnerships. We rely on our local partners to make sure that hungry people all across the region have access to the resources they need.
The Foodbank not only focuses on the volume of food that we distribute but also the nutritional quality of that food. More than 70 percent of the product that goes out our doors is what we refer to as “Foods to Encourage.” Those foods include fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains, just to name a few. In fact, fresh fruits and vegetables made up more than 6 million pounds of the 42 million pounds that the Foodbank distributed last year.
Back to the show. Ms. Bamford is a strong supporter of diversity in comedy. How is that support reflected in the show’s line-up?
We’ve never had a female headliner for “Hunger Is No Joke,” and Maria Bamford’s voice is one we’d be remiss to pass up the chance to showcase. Tim Convy is back as our emcee for the second year in a row, along with local comics Joe Murray, Ella Fritts, and Hayden Kristal (based out of Columbia, Mo.). Ella and Hayden were both added after Maria put out the call on Twitter for local comics to submit videos for the chance to open for her. It’s going to be a great show and it’s really cool that Maria personally picked Ella and Hayden to be a part of the evening.
Since we began presenting Hunger is No Joke, we have made incorporating local acts a priority. St. Louis has some great, diverse talent, and we do our best to give local performers the chance to open for a nationally recognized act. Each year there has been at least one comic on the bill with St. Louis ties. In fact, the year that the Sklar Brothers headlined, all the comedians – Kelsey McClure, Kenny Kinds, Nick Vatterott and, of course, the Sklars – had St. Louis ties.
In regards to the diversity of Hunger Is No Joke, the Foodbank tries to put on the best show possible. To that end, we’ve tried to be mindful of the comics we’ve hosted in the past and to consider the ways we can bring a real variety of comic voices to St. Louis and to our cause. After last year’s event, we received a lot of feedback about having more diversity and inclusion in the lineup. We asked local comedians and The Pageant’s booking agent for suggestions to help us accomplish that goal. We’re proud to offer a more diverse show this year.
Do you have future comedy shows or similar events lined up?
This is the only comedy-based event that we have on the calendar, but various entertainment events usually pop up throughout the year. Performers and venues offer to host food drives, often proposing free or discounted admission in exchange for donations to the Foodbank. We’re always looking for new partners and would love to work with any local comedians that are interested in the cause.
How can our readers help your mission?
Around the Foodbank we say “hunger can affect anyone and anyone can affect hunger.” There are a number of ways that your readers can support our mission. The best way to get involved is to visit our website – STLFoodbank.org. Click on the “Get Involved” tab to learn how you can volunteer, host a food drive, contact your legislators, or make a donation to the organization to help us fight hunger in the community.
Hunger is No Joke takes place at The Pageant on Saturday, August 5, 2017. Ticket information is here.