For the past month, motorists travelling along St. Louis’ two major highways have witnessed a feast of lush, leafy collards, kale and chard growing on two “living billboards” featuring the iconic St. Louis Arch standing tall in front of the downtown skyline. The billboards, sponsored by Bayer, have now been harvested and the crops donated today to the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
With a welcoming message of “St. Louis, Let’s Grow Together,” the billboards represent Bayer’s new presence in the St. Louis region following the completion of its acquisition of Monsanto Company. The site of the former sustainable agriculture company is now the headquarters for Bayer’s Crop Science division. The billboards, which were located on I-170 north and I-64 east, also represent Bayer’s commitment to the metro-St. Louis area through a combination of community spirit, agriculture, art and innovation. Each billboard had its own irrigation system and was maintained by a horticulturist.
“The idea behind these billboards was about a year and a half in the making, and we were so excited to see them go up,” said Ray Kerins, Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate Affairs for Bayer. “But what we’re even more excited about is to see these crops provide many local families access to a variety of freshly grown greens. We’re proud to work with the St. Louis Area Foodbank on this effort, and we are especially proud to reiterate to St. Louis the message on these billboards: ‘Let’s Grow Together.”
For many families, access to healthy nutritional meals can become a daily struggle. Feeding America, whose network includes the St. Louis Area Foodbank, estimates in parts of Missouri, one in three children face food insecurity on a regular basis; for adults, that number is one in five.
“Fresh produce is important for a well balanced diet. Unfortunately, such foods can be expensive for income challenged individuals who struggle with food insecurity, and based upon the communities where they reside, access may not be readily available,” said Lenora Gooden, Vice President of Product Sourcing for the St. Louis Area Foodbank. “We appreciate Bayer’s support of the St. Louis Area Foodbank. This donation of fresh greens and produce will help meet the needs of those we serve throughout the bi-state region.”
In addition to the billboard crops, Bayer is supplementing its donation to the foodbank with apples, sweet corn and other vegetables. Also, more than a dozen Bayer employees are volunteering to help unload and sort the donated food.
Today’s donation is only the latest chapter in an important legacy in the fight against hunger. Two years ago, the Monsanto Fund, now a philanthropic arm of Bayer, launched a series of food initiatives in St. Louis, Brazil, China, and this past April in northern Kenya, to address malnutrition and food insecurity in young children from birth to age 5.