Montana lawmakers lend hands, hearts in canning for needy

For several Montana lawmakers, the Church's regional cannery in Missoula recently became a work site as they took a turn at humanitarian food processing.

The only Church cannery in the eight stakes within Montana borders, the cannery was visited by seven legislators and two U.S. Congressional staff members for a day designed to bring awareness of humanitarian needs to the decision makers.In a joint project with the Montana Food Bank Network, a partner of the cannery since 1995, 500 pounds of carrots were processed. The non-paid visitors also heard new ideas about this community resource, the services it provides, the important need of legislative funding to help can food for hungry people around the state, the Food Bank Network's goals and the critical shortage of volunteer labor.

Richard Long, cannery manager, and Peggy Grimes, executive director of the Montana Food Bank Network, have established many milestones while working together on dozens of important projects regarding the health of Montana families in crisis. Yet the call for permanent labor support through volunteers continues unrecognized, thus the Food Bank Network executive director's planning of special awareness days at the Church's facility, such as the Legislative Canning Day and upcoming Media Canning Day and Pastors' Canning Day.

"The legislators' day was a hands-on experience that clearly demonstrated the potential of the cannery as a unique resource for a humanitarian-aid effort," commented Robert Wischmeier, chairman of the Regional Canning Committee. He added projects are being considered that would involve Eagle Scouts, 4-H groups, various community-service organizations, and active participation by state welfare recipients.

Brother Long, in his third year as manager, said the Church storehouse, cannery and welfare system are becoming more recognized as successful models, and he is often invited to speak at local and statewide seminars. He is scheduled to speak in October at a State Hunger and Homelessness Conference in Helena.

Coordinated by the executive director of Food Bank Network, nearly 170,000 cans of food products for Montanans have been jointly produced at the cannery during the past three years.

Regarding the legislative day, Brother Long said: "It's an important step for the Missoula region to have the Church's canning facility known not only for the good works it does for Church members, but for the opportunities to help feed the state and community in emergency situations."

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