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Restaurants, caterers put the ‘bon appetit’ in food giveaway

ST. LOUIS – Typically, Andrew Murray is busy serving paying customers for his business, Murray’s Catering. But on Friday, he was serving up boxes of Fettuccine Alfredo Broccoli and Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo for people who couldn’t pay.

Murray, who is executive chef for his company, brought boxes of his specialties stacked high to a food giveaway at North Oaks Plaza at Lucas-Hunt Road and Natural Bridge Road. Between Murray’s Catering and four other local African-American restaurants, organizations and caterers, hundreds of people received the best in free hot food to go.

Friday was the first time Murray’s Catering worked with Friday’s sponsors, the NAACP-St. Louis County Branch, Shalom Church and the Bailey Foundation, Murray said. Besides Murray’s Catering, Black restaurants, organizations and caterers that provided food were Drake’s Place, Gulf Shores, One Dish Wonders and Operation Food Search.

“But we do it all over the city, pretty much, so we give back to the community all the time, and I think it’s a great thing to do, so we give back to the community all the time,” Murray said. “I think it’s a great thing to do, especially in North County.”

People in cars lined up are asked how many meals they need.

“Some people still are in that pandemic kind of mode,” Murray said. “They’ve got a lot of bills to pay.”

The person in charge of the event is John Bowman, the president of the NAACP St. Louis County.

Friday’s event marked about the 58th week for weekly food giveaways during the pandemic.

“We started doing this last March when the pandemic hit,” Bowman said. “We saw a space that needed to be filled in the community with providing food, where there was food insecurity. Through a collaborative effort, we’ve grown into what you see today.”

The locations change from time to time, and the group partners with different organizations from time to time also, Bowman said. About 265,000 meals have been given out at the event since it started, he said.

Those who received meals Friday included Mellori Thomas.

“Someone told me about it, so I came on out,” Thomas said. “My husband’s laid off now, so every little bit helps.”

Another person who got help was Carla Johnson.

“I think this is awesome,” Johnson exclaimed. “This is the first time seeing an event of this type in the area, so it’s exciting to see the NAACP and Gulf Shores giving back to the community.”

One of the volunteers giving out the meals was James Ball, working along with fellow members of a local fraternity. 

“I found my sweet spot in life. I’m making sure I help other people in time of need,” said Ball, who is retired from federal law enforcement. “I enjoy coming out and being on the giving end versus being on the receiving end.”

Will and Annie Magny helped out by giving out 500 meals from their business, One Dish Wonders.

“We’re just here to serve our community and to help everybody get through this pandemic, this crisis that has affected everyone in different ways,” Annie Magny said. “This is good food. We have beef and gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans, and a dinner roll – one of those old-fashioned meals.” 

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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