Imagine what would happen if civic leaders, non-profit agencies and faith organizations all worked together to address the needs of the hungry in our communities? This vision came to reality on January 31st, 2013 when local mayors and city officials, leaders from Operation Food Search and church leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) met together to can thousands of dollars of dry pack food items for local food pantries.
In order to collaborate to help feed the hungry as well as build awareness of the great need in local areas, representatives from these three groups in North County and St. Charles County spent several hours canning food at the LDS Bishop’s Storehouse in Bridgeton. Working side by side with LDS bishops, mayors and city officials donned aprons and food service hair nets to can a variety of items including oats, rice, sugar and potato flakes.
Terry Slezak, ecclesiastical leader over 11 bishops, addressed the group. “We are excited each of you took time to come and collaborate on this event,” said Slezak. “We hope as we roll up our sleeves and work together we will have a great feeling of accomplishment. Each one of our groups does a lot of reaching out. The best thing we can do is to work together.” Slezak is president of the St. Louis Missouri North Stake, a geographical area covering North County, St. Charles County and parts of Warren and Lincoln Counties.
Sunny Schaefer, Executive Director of Operation Food Search, gave an overview of how they distribute food to food pantries throughout the Greater Saint Louis region and why the need is so great.
“For most of us, hunger is simply a minor irritation, one that we can remedy with a trip to the refrigerator,” said Schaefer. “But about 10% of our community doesn’t have the financial means to do so. For them it is a serious problem.” She sees this collaborative effort as a great way to help the growing number of people in need.
Five local mayors and city officials took part in the tour of the cannery in Bridgeton: Ferguson Honorable James Knowles, Lake Saint Louis Mayor Mike Potter, St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano, O'Fallon Mayor Bill Hennessy and Florissant Director of Community Development Carol O’Mara. Each helped can dry pack food items which were donated to Operation Food Search. An additional donation of $1000 of food items was also presented to Operation Food Search. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will further donate $1000 worth of food items from the Bishop’s Storehouse to local food pantries of the mayor’s choosing.
O’Fallon Mayor Bill Hennessy understands the great benefit of working together in collaborative efforts such as these. “It is a great honor to be here tonight to collaborate together for such a wonderful cause,” said Hennessy. Mayor Hennessy sees this as an opportunity to give back to the community and lead the way to support local efforts to help those in need. The food he receives will be donated to the Salvation Army food pantry in O’Fallon.
The event was organized by Natalie Blakemore, Community Relations Specialist for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the St. Louis North Stake, in collaboration with Operation Food Search of Greater St. Louis. In her opening remarks to mayors and city officials, Blakemore said, “It touches my heart to see you here tonight. You are showing your true heart and soul and I am honored you were able to join us in this great cause.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has over 200 storehouses, just like the one in Bridgeton, throughout the United States to serve those in need. In addition, it has six central storehouses, each with over 55,000 square feet. The Storehouse on Welfare Square in Salt Lake City has over 500,000 square feet of storage to meet national and international requests for emergency assistance and humanitarian aid.
The Dry Pack Cannery in Bridgeton is a 1000 square foot home storage center which provides families the opportunity of storing food for times of need. It is open to the public. Nearly 43% of the visitors are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dry pack items such as rice, wheat, flour and sugar are available at cost. The church does not make any profit and there is no tax charged. All the bulk food items are less than 10% moisture and are ideal for long term food storage.
Clyde and Marjean Livingston, Home Storage Center Managers, help operate the facility. “The home storage center is a huge blessing in the lives of people that come to use it”, said Marjean. “They have peace of mind that comes from having a supply of food for times of need. There will often be hard times in our lives, whether it be a job lay off or a natural disaster. People enjoy having peace of mind knowing they at least will have a source of food should hard times come their way.”
The Bishop’s Storehouse is located at 12843 Pennridge Dr., Bridgeton MO 63044. The cannery office phone number is 314-344-0313.