This July, Keith Mosier will celebrate his 28-year anniversary with Food Outreach! He is an essential member of the Food Outreach team. He started at Food Outreach in 1995 as the administrative assistant to the executive director and now works as the office manager. “My role at Food Outreach has grown. When I first started working at Food Outreach, I did a lot of things that I still do now but on a smaller scale, but back then I would order the food and unpack it when it came in and get it ready in the kitchen for the volunteers when they arrived for our Saturday cooks. I was administering the Raiser’s Edge database—I was doing that from the get-go–and I went to Raiser’s Edge training when I first got hired. As the organization grew, my role grew. It’s a jack-of-all-trades job, and I started taking on more things like accounting and bookkeeping, I got into government grant reporting. I now also perform HR functions and the onboarding of new employees. The things I do still change. “
Keith was working at Schnucks as a cashier trainer when he heard about the job opening at Food Outreach. “In the mid-1990s, I volunteered at the AIDS Foundation of St. Louis, a now-closed foundation that supported the various AIDS Service Organizations in St. Louis by providing grants, mostly from funds generated by the AIDS Walk St. Louis, which they sponsored. The executive director there told me about a job opening at Food Outreach, which I knew of from my volunteering at the Walk, and said I should apply right away. I did but did not get the job at first. The person they hired originally did not work out, however, and they called me back. I’ve always thought it was some sort of fate for me to be here!”
Food Outreach was a very different organization in 1995. They operated out of the third floor of Union Avenue Christian Church and cooked in the basement church kitchen. The top floor housed the offices in one area and a large adjacent open area with about 30 or so regular, home-type freezers around the outside of the room (they were too heavy to place in the center of the floor) where the client orders would be stored until client pickup day every other weekend. Volunteers and staff would cook and package the food items on alternate weekends from pickup days, bring them up to the third floor in the church’s ancient elevator, barely big enough for one person and a cart, and put them in the freezer to freeze for a week.
In 1995 when Keith started working at Food Outreach, the AIDS pandemic was at its peak, protease inhibitors had not yet become available, and an AIDS diagnosis was seen as a death sentence. The introduction of protease inhibitors changed the way Food Outreach served its clients. “AIDS was raging at that point. It was the mid-90s. Protease inhibitors had not come to market yet so a lot of our clients were very sick and were struggling a lot. The biggest changes started happening after the advent of protease inhibitors when almost overnight a lot of our clients went from being at death’s door to actually getting healthier and better. Then we needed to revamp the ways we provided food because, in the early days, it was all about getting our clients calories, calories, calories to offset body wasting—it didn’t matter where the calories came from. All of our clients who came to pick up food also got two cases of Ensure for the same reason. But when people started living longer and actually had a chance for a healthy life, then we figured out that a lot of what we provided wasn’t really going to be healthy for them and not everyone needed the two cases of Ensure. We hired a staff registered dietitian and started looking more at what our meals consisted of and trying to make them more healthy.”
Food Outreach has long since moved out of the third floor of Union Avenue Christian Church and into its own facility. In addition to registered dietitians, Food Outreach has added a staff chef and delivery van drivers. One of the biggest changes at Food Outreach is the expansion of services to individuals diagnosed with cancer as well as a pilot program for individuals living with type 2 diabetes. “I’m glad we’re expanding into other diagnoses because there are plenty of other people out there that could use what we do and I think we could make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.”
While a lot has changed at Food Outreach, Keith believes that the organization has always kept to its mission. “I’m proud that Food Outreach is staying true to our mission of enriching our clients’ lives through food and nutrition, even as we have grown and our client demographics have changed. And we have always remained welcoming, supportive, and respectful of all of our clients, regardless of whom they love, how old they are or what color their skin is.”
This August, Keith will celebrate another milestone. Last year, he married his longtime partner and will celebrate their first wedding anniversary and the 37th anniversary of their relationship. Keith is a photographer, and his office is decorated with his photography. He loves to travel and garden.
Keith has remained at Food Outreach because of its work environment and the difference the organization makes to its clients. “It’s a great place to be. Serving our clients has always been very special to me. I think we do a really, really great job of serving our clients’ needs and it’s always been a very fulfilling job. If I ever have questions about what we are doing or why we’re here, all I have to do is just walk into the lobby on a busy day and see the people that we’re serving and that just puts everything into perspective.”
You can make a donation to Food Outreach in honor of Keith here.