Church opens cannery doors to help ease pangs of hunger

"And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need." - Alma 1:30

As the plight and pangs of the hungry have attracted increasing attention, the Church has opened up its welfare facilities and joined forces with community and interfaith groups to maximize effectiveness in combatting the problem.

"Many individuals and groups - including farmers with excess production, companies with excess food and others - are willing to donate their resources to help the hungry," said Dennis R. Lifferth, director of production distribution for Church Welfare Services. "What's lacking in many instances is the ability to pull all of this together. Opening up Church canneries provides the facilities to unite these groups and harness this energy.

"All of these humanitarian canning efforts are coordinated under the direction of agent stake presidents and cannery managers, and appropriate training and supervision are provided by Welfare Services personnel. The projects are conducted under strict quality control conditions that meet all guidelines for handling food and result in first-class products. The humanitarian projects result in much goodwill for the Church as they involve our members alongside people of other faiths in providing service."

While specifics of humanitarian canning projects vary from place to place, depending upon the types of available commodities and community resources, they all share some common ingredients. All include approval and supervision from local Welfare Services personnel and Church leaders, and combined labor involving members and non-members working together. They also involve distribution of goods through local food banks, homeless shelters or similar agencies, and gratitude from the organizations involved and individual recipients of the food items. In most instances, increased goodwill toward the Church and its membership has been an added positive result.

Here are several examples of the types of humanitarian canning projects being undertaken:


Humanitarian efforts utilizing the cannery at the Denver Bishops' Storehouse have been under way for nearly five years, according to Delmar Anderson, Welfare Services storehouse manager for the North America Central Area.

The initial project involved canning of kokanee salmon, taken to the cannery under the direction of Food Bank of the Rockies. Annually, the fish would spawn and die in a nearby river. The organization had requested that governmental agencies involved allow harvesting of the dying fish so their meat could be put to good use. To facilitate the project, the Church opened its cannery and provided cans and lids and some volunteer labor.

Since that time, similar projects have occurred with regularity. Brother Anderson said in 1993, 75,000 cans of food were produced through humanitarian efforts, mostly in cooperation with Denver Metro CareRing, a coalition of about 25 civic and religious agencies concerned with battling hunger. In addition to the salmon, canned commodities have included potatoes, tomatoes, applesauce, corn, carrots and "whatever is available and donated from a variety of sources," according to Brother Anderson.

At times, the cannery is also used to re-package goods for humanitarian efforts. Recently, thirty 50-gallon barrels of maple syrup were re-packaged into smaller containers. And youth from the area helped re-package dry-pack hot cocoa mix from 1,000-pound bins into 15,000 one-gallon cans.

Brother Anderson explained that during the Metro CareRing projects, stakes are requested to provide about half the workers for each shift, with the other half provided through Metro CareRing.

He estimated that by the end of this year, 100,000 canned items will have been produced for humanitarian projects. Next year that will double, he said, as groups from cities in Wyoming and other parts of Colorado will come into the cannery with their own volunteers, work alongside local Church members and take the goods produced back to their local communities for distribution.

Along with the obvious good that results from the humanitarian efforts is the resultant goodwill. Brother Anderson told of one incident where a minister was set to show his congregation a film unfavorable to the Church. When the chairman of the Council of Churches for Colorado heard of it, he asked the minister not to show the film, telling him the allegations contained therein were false.

"That has resulted from his involvement at the cannery," said Brother Anderson. "That's the kind of thing that is happening as a result of this."


A mutual interest in feeding needy families in central Ohio produced a unique co-operative effort between Ohio Prison inmates, members of the Columbus Ohio Region of the Church and the Mid-Ohio FoodBank.

The Mid-Ohio FoodBank distribution system reaches the hungry in 51 Ohio counties, supplying food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters with meals.

For several years, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has had an excess of fresh produce grown on prison farms that could not be used within the corrections system and has donated many thousands of pounds of various vegetables to the food bank. These donations unknowingly set the stage for the unique government/charity/Church partnership.

For the past three years, two acres of green beans have been grown on the prison farm in Chillicothe, Ohio, specifically for the cannery. These beans were picked by the inmates and delivered to the cannery, where Church members took over. In about eight hours they washed, snipped, sorted, filled, cooked, and sealed more than a ton of beans. The final step was to label each can (4,000 in 1993) with the Deseret label and a special sticker giving credit to ODRC, the LDS Church and the food bank.

In a recent letter, ODRC Director Reginald Wilinson said he was "most pleased with the results of the garden project partnership" and pledged continuing support.

Kenneth G. Petersen, former president of the Columbus Ohio East Stake, and Evelyn Behm, associate director of the Mid-Ohio FoodBank, were convinced they could continue and expand their partnership. The time quickly came to work together again. The Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Association contacted Ms. Behm, wanting to know if she could use 19,200 pounds of last season's apples.

She was able to distribute about half of the apples fresh, and then contacted the Church for help in preserving the remainder. Local Church leaders and members mobilized immediately, and within a week the apples were being processed into 5,760 cans of applesauce.

"We are blessed to have this unique cannery in this location with willing and committed Church volunteers who will respond at almost a moment's notice," remarked Ms. Behm, who had never heard of the Church before the canning partnership. "We can renew this partnership over and over as produce becomes available." - Pauline Morello


The well-known counting rhyme "One potato, two potato, three potato, four. . . " took on new significance when more than 450 Calgary residents participated in a 42-hour humanitarian canning marathon recently.

For the first time in this area, Christian youth groups, community service clubs and members of the Church came together to peel, slice and chop more than 19,000 pounds of potatoes.

"I doubt I will be able to face a potato again," laughed Calgary Alberta East Stake Pres. Jeff Grunewald. "I don't think I have ever seen so many potatoes at one time."

The mammoth project came about when Robert Wood of the Calgary Inter-faith Food Bank offered to share surplus potatoes with the Calgary Bishops' Storehouse. He was surprised when, instead of merely accepting his generosity, local Church leaders offered to can the potatoes and donate the finished product back to the food bank.

"It is wonderful that we had the opportunity to work with your people," Mr. Wood commented to members. "It's good to see such cooperation between agencies."

Working in four-hour shifts, volunteers included participants from Teen Challenge, Youth With A Mission, Cremona High School, and from every ward in the Calgary region.

"We were thrilled by the response, and we were pleased to be able to use our facilities to share welfare principles in this manner," explained Pres. Grunewald. At the close of the two-day marathon, over 9,000 cans of potatoes awaited quality assurance testing before being handed over to the food bank.

"I think this whole project has been great," said Inter-faith volunteer Ken Short. "We may not agree on all points of religion, but we can agree to put aside our differences and work together to feed the hungry in our community. Isn't that what Jesus Christ would want us to do?" - Denise Walsh Norton


"Prisoners grow it, Mormons can it," is how the annual report of the Food Bank Council of Michigan summarized its cooperative effort with the Michigan State Industries, Jackson State Correctional Facility and the Church's Detroit cannery.

In the summer of 1993, an open house at the Bishops' Storehouse and cannery was held to acquaint civic leaders and charitable organizations with the Church Welfare Services facilities. The option for non-profit groups to use the cannery was explained. Following a tour, the visitors were served a meal prepared by the Farmington Hills Ward Relief Society, using food from the storehouse.

As a result of that introduction, the Church agreed to can 400 cases of tomatoes grown by the inmates at the Jackson State Correctional Facility. The Church provided the facility, labor, cans, lids and boxes. The food bank, which provided the tomato seeds, would deliver the tomatoes to the cannery and transport the canned goods to 90 food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens. Before the harvest season ended, donated peaches and apples had also been canned for the food banks.

This past April, the Church was one of eight groups honored by the Food Bank of Oakland County for its significant help in supplying 2.5 million pounds of donated food. Executive director Jim Macy commented: "In 1993 we developed a wonderful relationship with the bishops' cannery, a project of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Using their facility, equipment, materials, management and their volunteers as well as our own, we have been able to can hundreds of cases of tomatoes, peaches and applesauce."

Similar humanitarian canning efforts have continued this year. Encouraged by the success of the first project, Warden Frank Elo and the prisoners agreed to supply vegetables for 2,000 cases of tomatoes and 1,000 cases of carrots in 1994.

According to Betty Hall, resident unit manager at the Jackson facility, "The inmates are excited to be kept busy and have an opportunity to give something back to society."

Several months ago Second Harvest, a national organization that deals with donations larger than local food banks can handle, contacted Church leaders in Detroit requesting help. It had received fifty-two 55-gallon drums of crushed pineapple from McDonalds. All 27,000 pounds of the pineapple needed to be canned. The project was referred to the cannery. After testing to confirm that the pineapple could be processed in a safe and cost-effective manner, the project began. About 520 cases of 29-ounce cans were produced for distribution to those in need. Other projects also have occurred.

The series of events which followed the cannery open house certainly brings to mind the counsel, "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." (D&C 64:33) - Bonnie Nielson


Various humanitarian canning projects have been undertaken at the Welfare Square cannery, including the processing of 30,000 pounds of donated apples into applesauce earlier this year.

Cannery manager Dale Hicken noted other humanitarian efforts involving a mixture of LDS and non-member volunteers, including the canning of 350 cases of tomatoes.

In September, an ecumenical group from Park City, Utah, provided manpower at the cannery in return for food products to help stock community food pantry shelves. "They help us get a certain product produced," explained Brother Hicken, "but they don't necessarily get that specific product in return. They may have other particular needs that we can help with.

"These humanitarian efforts are wonderful tools that build love and friendship. We asked several members of this Park City group if their hard work was worth it. One of them had his arm around an LDS volunteer he had met and said, `If we hadn't done it, I never would have met my good friend.' Volunteers of all faiths are happy to be here, and there is a good feeling as they participate."


The Church and the United Way of Utah County are pooling their resources in an ongoing effort to help LDS and non-LDS individuals and families in Utah County become self-sufficient.

"We are making a conscious effort to alleviate poverty conditions by providing products and financial assistance and in this case sharing with local agencies trying to meet the different needs of those struggling," said Pres. Richard Eddy of the Orem Park Utah Stake, agent stake for the Lindon cannery.

Through the United Way, various humanitarian canning projects have been undertaken using a combination of LDS and non-member volunteer labor, similar to what is being done in other areas.

"There is a high level of excitement in these new projects," said Kelsey Ruse, Lindon cannery manager. "Many of the people working on the lines

during humanitarian canning projectsT are recipients of the food through the United Way agencies."

As those receiving food are able to work for what they receive, they experience the satisfaction and dignity of maintaining feelings of self-reliance, according to those involved with such projects. And others who aren't recipients of food nevertheless find great joy in serving on behalf of those less fortunate.


During a visit to Los Angeles following the 1992 riots, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Council of the Twelve, then serving as Presiding Bishop, invited ministers to bring their congregations to the cannery to help them with emergency food needs. The offer was well-received and has led to a variety of continuing humanitarian projects.

According to Pres. Howard B. Anderson of the Los Angeles California Stake, agent stake for the cannery, stakes in the Los Angeles area have been encouraged to team up with a local food bank, church or civic group for participation in humanitarian projects. Each stake invites a group to form a partnership, and they work shoulder to shoulder on various canning projects, with the partner from the community receiving goods for their needs based on the time they donate.

"This helps us reach out into the community, show we are here to help and teach correct welfare principles," explained Pres. Anderson. "We feel the effort is building as we help people understand what the principles are. To those who understand it, the results have been wonderful."

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