Marsha Rosenthal, Open Door Food Kitchen board president, prepares food Tuesday morning. Volunteers are needed every day to prepare and serve meals. When no volunteers are available, board members must step in and money from the organization's treasury is used.

Despite serving hundreds each week, the Open Door Food Kitchen is struggling to find volunteers to fill plates for upcoming months.

Roughly 200 individuals line up outside the Open Door Food Kitchen, 510 Edmond St., each day for a meal cooked and served by tireless volunteers, said Food Kitchen Board President Marsha Rosenthal. Despite the high number of hungry individuals, volunteer positions remained unfilled from February through December.

“We have 37 open days from the first of February through December,” Ms. Rosenthal said. “That’s a lot of days and when we don’t have a group that comes to cook and serve, it falls on the board of directors and we have to take money out of the treasury.”

Service and volunteer groups spend an estimated $200 on food to serve the lunch crowd on a daily meal. With five to eight volunteers to prepare meals for a few hours, the lack of those available prompted concern from the board of directors.

“We provide six hot meals a (week) with a sack lunch on Sundays,” Ms. Rosenthal said. “That is a guaranteed meal seven days a week. The meal can be up to the choice of (the volunteers), but there is usually a choice of (an entree), vegetable, fruit and a dessert.”

Food insecurity also has become a concern as 77 percent of food bank clients programs in Missouri are reported as food insecure, according to the U.S. government’s official food security scale in 2010. Feeding America, a nationwide network of member food banks, reported 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children in 2011.

“We don’t want to close the food kitchen, because it is definitely needed in St. Joe,” Ms. Rosenthal said. “It is a viable necessity for the city, but we need people to help to carry it through.”

In past years, local service groups, church members and various clubs schedule a day to volunteer that typically begins around 9 a.m. and serves six hot meals Monday through Saturday and one sack lunch on Sunday.

Food can be prepared in the health department-inspected kitchens or prepared at the Open Door Food Kitchen a few hours before the 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. lunch rush, Ms. Rosenthal said.

“We really need more people to set up and volunteer for more days,” she said. “This is a great need that helps out community members each and every week.”

If you would like to volunteer, contact the Open Door Food Kitchen at 364-1085.

Kristin Hoppa can be reached at kristin.hoppa@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPHoppa.