Feeding St. Louis
Feeding St. Louis
Meredith Knopp, ’95, delivers 52 million meals a year to hungry people at the helm of one of just 200 Feeding America food banks nationwide.January 29, 2023
Did you know that one in eight people in the United States face hunger? That’s approximately 38,287,000 people and of them, 11,722,000 are children. Meredith Knopp, ’95, remembers sharing this with her daughter Abigail when she was interviewing for her current role as president and CEO of the St. Louis Area Food Bank.
“My daughter, who is very curious, was asking me about the work. ‘What would you do, why would you do this?’ It felt like my five-and-a-half-year-old was interviewing me,” says Knopp. “I told her about it, and she said, ‘Wait, there are kids like me that didn’t eat today? You have to fix that.’”
Knopp is fixing that by distributing a staggering 52 million meals annually to St. Louis food pantries and soup kitchens. She’s at the helm of one of 200 food banks nationwide that are supported by Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States.
Originally from Birmingham, MI, Knopp volunteered as a grade schooler at Gleaners Community Food Bank in Detroit. Now, she’s not only working locally with the 26 counties that the St. Louis Area Food Bank serves, but she is also the chair of the board for both Feeding Missouri and Feeding Illinois. In addition, she was recently appointed by Missouri’s secretary of the Department of Agriculture to lead a statewide Food Insecurity Taskforce.
Knopp is bright and brings some serious chops to the nonprofit world. Her professional journey began as an undergrad at MSU’s James Madison College. Ever fascinated by different countries and cultures, she pursued international relations and studied abroad at the University of Cambridge between her sophomore and junior years. When she returned to campus, the ROTC program offered her a two-year scholarship while she completed her degree. She was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army post-graduation.
Knopp deployed to Bosnia at the “ripe old age of 22” and served as platoon leader and company commander at posts worldwide for the next eight years. Her cumulative performance earned her a Meritorious Service Medal, the military’s highest joint service decoration and the highest noncombat award.
She was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri when she decided to leave the military to pursue a different career option. She spent the first five years after the military leading big box retail stores for Home Depot and Best Buy, but in 2007 decided to move to the nonprofit world to make an impact.
She served as the senior vice president of Junior Achievement of St. Louis for four years before becoming the senior vice president of programs and operations for the veterans group The Mission Continues, launching the group nationwide.
“I was traveling a lot,” Knopp says. “I remember my daughter, before a work trip, said, ‘Mommy, can’t you tell your boss I need you more than he does?’ So, I made the tough choice to leave and look for my next adventure.”
Knopp settled in as president and CEO of the St. Louis Area Food Bank in February 2018.
“I love it,” she says. “It feels like home.”
Contributing Writer(s): Sarah Carpenter, '00