The Friends Community Outreach

Learn more about the Saint Francis Foundation’s work in the communities that we serve.

Tiger Bites Summer Feeding Program

Caring and committed community volunteers gather weekly to help pack and deliver healthy, nutritious food to families. The Tiger Bites Summer Feeding Program, funded by Saint Francis Foundation, helps families in need who can use a little extra support during the summer months.

Thank you to Schnucks, Drury Southwest, Inc., Cape Central High School and Jefferson Elementary for making this possible!

Tiger Bites Photos

Jefferson Backpack Program

This annual program distributes food to students in need at Jefferson Elementary School in Cape Girardeau during the school year. Initially, the food was packed into new backpacks for the students. Today, the program has transitioned to provide food students can carry home in their current backpacks. From January 2018 to May 2020, 403 food-filled backpacks were distributed, benefiting 892 children. Funding for this program comes from The Friends of Saint Francis annual golf tournament.

Why Jefferson Elementary?

Astoundingly one hundred percent of students at Jefferson Elementary School meet the qualifications to receive free meals during the school year. With the backpack program, students receive food to take home to ensure they have meals every weekend.

Jimmy Wilferth, Vice President of Foundation and Marketing at Saint Francis Healthcare System, said that the need does not stop just because school is out for the weekend and summer months.

“We have to step in and fill the gap for these kids,” Wilferth added. “And we need to love on them in this way so they can grow and mature into whatever God created them to be.”

The backpacks are filled with a variety of canned vegetables, fruit cups, canned soups, chili, saltines and spaghetti in addition to cereal, oatmeal, toaster pastries, apple juice and snack crackers.

“We have proven many times that the children who receive the backpacks are much more alert and focused because they had this food,” Jamie Jones, Jefferson Elementary Parent Liaison, said. “I’m so thankful because we could not do this without Saint Francis.”

A volunteer from The Friends delivers the backpacks to the school every Thursday during the school year. The kids go home with a backpack every Friday. The names of children are not labeled on any bags. Teachers receive lists of who should receive a bag and distribute the bags to the children as they leave school.

Ryan Bandermann, Manager and Physical Therapist in Outpatient Rehabilitation Services, volunteers with The Friends. He says seeing the children’s faces when he distributes the backpacks is very fulfilling.

“Our work at Saint Francis is truly a ministry,” Bandermann said. “We touch many lives each and every day within [the Medical Center’s] walls, however our ministry extends much farther than that. Being able to serve our community in this way, especially children, is exactly what being the hands and feet of Christ is all about. We are commanded by Christ to take care of these individuals and I am honored to work for an organization that understands that.”

Last summer, The Friends provided more than 67,000 meals for Jefferson students and their families through the Tiger Bites Summer Feeding Program. Throughout the summer, boxes of food worth $100 were given to families who typically depend on school lunches and the backpack program. The Friends is once again providing the Tiger Bites Summer Feeding Program in 2020 through funds raised at The Friends of Saint Francis Golf Tournament.

Food and Home Essentials Distribution Efforts


  • Mobile food pantry at Jackson R-II School District


  • $5,000 donation was made to Jackson R-II School District Food Pantry
  • $1,430 donation to Jackson R-II School District to send enough food home with students on the last day of school to feed them through the start of summer school
  • $2,500 donation to Eagle Closet to support its efforts in providing household and laundry supplies, clothes and food to students in need. Eagle Closet has three locations across New Madrid and serves all schools in its district.

Tower Gardens


  • In partnership with Butler County Health Department, The Friends of Saint Francis purchased two tower gardens at $1,100 each. These indoor gardens provided 11,000 pounds of produce each in their first year. Using aeroponics — the same technology NASA uses — tower gardens grows plants with only water and nutrients rather than dirt, growing plants three times faster and producing 30 percent greater yields on average. The tower gardens are located at Twin Towers Senior Center and Karen West Head Start in Poplar Bluff.

Donate to a Saint Francis Foundation Fund