Imagine waking up and having to choose between food for your pet or food for yourself when you make your way to the grocery store in the morning. Or having the money to pay for dog food, but no transportation to get you to the nearest pet supply store. This is the reality for many residents in East St. Louis and surrounding areas. At Gateway Pet Guardians, we strive to eliminate decisions like this by providing the resources necessary to care for pets, so residents can better care for both themselves and their animals.

East St. Louis has a population of 26,790, with a median household income of $19,856. 45.4% of residents are at the poverty level (U.S. Census Bureau). It’s a community in need of help, but not just financially. East St. Louis is what we call a ‘resource desert,’ with no veterinary clinics and few pet supply/grocery stores available to obtain pet food. Even if residents are financially able to care for their pets, there are few resources within the community they can rely on.

A volunteer mixes dog food to prepare for distribution

A volunteer mixes dog food to prepare for distribution

The Gateway Pet Guardians Community Outreach Program strives to ensure that pet owners have the resources they need to provide their pets with a long, happy and healthy life. The goal of the program is to empower pet owners to keep pets in their homes and out of area shelters. We do this by distributing doghouses, tie-outs, collars, leashes, treats, and other supplies. Twice a year we hold vaccination clinics within the community. And our Spay/Neuter Program has altered 270 community pets so far in 2016. But our newest endeavor, a partnership with Bi-State Pet Food Pantry, is a giant step in our mission, making pet food accessible to low income families right in their community.

While we’ve seen a growing need for pet food as a resource for community members, it is unrealistic for GPG to deliver pet food to people, especially as our program grows. So we enlisted our friends at Bi-State Pet Food Pantry for help. Bi-State already has a great system in place to both screen clients and distribute food fairly and efficiently. This is a natural partnership between two agencies that serve much of the same population, and also share some volunteers.

On Saturday, September 17, Gateway Pet Guardians and Bi-State Pet Food Pantry hosted the first ever pet food distribution day in East St. Louis; and we’ve hosted distributions once a month since. So far, we’ve distributed 2,601 pounds of food. In September, we helped 23 families with 56 pets; in October, 9 families with 30 pets; and in November, 15 families with 42 pets. As we pilot this initiative, we are offering this resource to community members that have worked with us in the past through our Community Outreach and Spay/Neuter Programs, but we are hoping to grow to be a resource for all community members.

Pantry Volunteers

Volunteers wait to serve residents on distribution day

If you would like to learn more about the Gateway Pet Guardians Community Outreach Program, click here. To learn about Bi-State and their mission to keep pets and people together, click here. And if you would like to donate to make a difference in the lives of community pets, click the button below.