By Linda Talbot
For the Church News
A collective sigh of joy and relief rose from the dozens of onlookers as the first jars of peanut butter from the Church’s cannery in Houston, Texas — earmarked for Feeding America — moved down the production line.
Peter Polis, full-time cannery manager, and his crew have worked the past several months, retooling and upgrading equipment to make this humanitarian project possible. “This is extremely exciting, really exciting for all of us,” he said. “The Lord blesses us with the necessary means to help those in need.”
The Church cannery has a 10-year history of providing peanut butter to the Houston Food Bank. In October, the decision was made to expand and help not only the Houston Food Bank and its affiliates, but also to partner with Feeding America. Feeding America is a nationwide network of food banks and the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity. It helps provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. Each year 4 billion meals are provided to families through Feeding America, according to their website, www.feedingamerica.org.
The Church plans to provide between 950,000 and 1 million jars for this humanitarian effort in 2017. Community and corporate volunteers staff humanitarian peanut butter work shifts. The cannery is the only peanut butter production facility in the Church’s worldwide welfare network. The peanuts are grown on the Church farm in Pearsall, Texas, near San Antonio.
Don Johnson, director of the Production and Distribution Division, and Joe Love, headquarters manager over Processing Operations for Church Welfare Services, witnessed the event. “This is a humanitarian opportunity for the Church working with Feeding America. We are trying to be a partner with them to help them and us. That’s what we want to do. Our first objective is to feed members of our church that are in need. Whatever excess capacity we have in peanuts and facilities we would like to utilize to helping other agencies feed those in need,” Brother Johnson said. “The Church is trying to maximize the resources we have by partnering with agencies that are in place that already have distribution networks that we can contribute to, to help more people,” Brother Love added.
For the fourth time, Church member Brant Johnson organized his fellow co-workers at TransCanada Corporation to volunteer for this first 4-hour shift of the 48-hour run. Sixteen volunteers from the corporation’s local office prepared the peanuts, twisted on jar lids and packed boxes.
Co-worker Jill Holley shared, “This is my first time to help out, volunteer with the cause of making peanut butter for the less fortunate. I love being here!”
Karen Hanner, managing director of Manufacturing Partnerships for Feeding America, was impressed by her visit. “We witnessed a few of God’s miracles making this happen – all for the benefit of kids across the country. We envision a long term partnership. We have a yearlong production plan in place which is a huge value to families across the country and food banks are eagerly responding.“ She was most surprised by “the commitment to quality. I am so pleased to be able to witness the passion and commitment of the LDS Church and the business community.”