For nearly three decades, Affton residents have likely noticed the small yellow school bus going in and out of parking lot. Adorned with a Bible verse from the gospel of Matthew that states, “When I was hungry, you gave me to eat.” The Yellow Food Bus picks up donated food and drops it off to food pantries, schools and agencies that assist individuals in need.
“We are certainly the only people in St. Louis that offer this kind of service, and maybe the only people in the world!” said Jack Magee, one of the bus’ drivers for the last 20 years.
A project of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Dominic Savio Catholic Church, the bus is in action five days a week, taking off Tuesdays and Sundays. Manned by Magee and roughly a dozen other retired men from St. Dominic Savio and a few other parishes, the food bus concept was born after an associate pastor and another member of the St. Dominic Savio staff wanted to do some mobile outreach work with the parish.
“Our first bus, way back when, was a peculiar green one,” Magee said. “We are extremely lucky that our current bus was donated by another parishioner over three years ago, and we also have a large van to help haul the food we receive.”
During its days in service, the bus collects surplus food and personal-care goods from local grocery stores, restaurants and other drop-off points under the auspices of Operation Food Search. St. Dominic Savio also raises funds internally on a monthly basis for the yellow food bus and holds periodic food drives.
Once the food and goods are received, they are donated to 11 St. Louis food pantries, two soup kitchens, three senior care homes, two homeless shelters, two schools, one special needs organization and others.
The two participating schools, and Mary Queen of Peace, use the donated bread they receive to prepare sandwiches for those in need. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet take their donated items and disperse them to senior and nursing homes across the Carondelet area. The Affton Christian Food Pantry uses the donated items to stock its shelves for their clients on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Affton resident Scott Hark, the Director of Food Service at Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, said he appreciates the food his organization receives from the yellow food bus.
"The guys deliver bread to us weekly and we disperse it to organizations in need in the Carondelet area," Hark said. "I really respect and admire this group of guys, and they really do so much to help the less fortunate."
“I think one of the main reasons we’re so unique is that we are sort of like a wholesale food pantry,” Magee said. “We don’t have direct contact with individuals, but we provide goods to many local organizations that serve countless people every week.”
Now 78 years old, Magee said he hopes to continue driving the bus for a few more years before he hands the reins over to a younger volunteer.
"It all started because I was fortunate to retire at an early age and was looking for something to do," Magee said.
He began driving the bus more than 20 years ago, and during that time, he has left his mark on dozens of organizations and coutless people in need.
For more information on the Yellow Food Bus and how to donate food, call Jack Magee at 314-353-7928. To make a monetary donation, please send cash or a check payable to St. Vincent de Paul Society, St. Dominic Savio Conference to St. Dominic Savio Parish, 6120 Pebble Hill Drive, St. Louis, MO 63123.
Editor's note: This article was updated with additional information at 2:09 p.m., Monday.