A collective sigh of joy and relief rose up 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 January 26, 2017.
Peter Polis, full-time Cannery Manager worked tirelessly with his skeleton crew for the past several months overseeing the retooling and upgrades to equipment such as the roaster, filler assemblies, labels and labeler, new controllers tying all the systems together and adjustment of production rate to make this humanitarian project possible. “This is extremely exciting, really exciting for all of us,” Polis exclaimed. “The Lord blesses us with the necessary means to help those in need.”
The Church cannery has provided peanut butter to the Houston Food Bank for over 10 years. In October, the decision was made to expand and help not only the Houston Food Bank and its affiliates, but 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.
Feeding America serves as the clearinghouse, with peanut butter being shipped directly to communities in need. The Church plans to provide between 950,000 and 1,000,000 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 the Church Welfare Services were on hand to witness 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,” 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,” Love added.
For the fourth time, Church member Brant Johnson organized his fellow co-workers with 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. “The hand of the Lord has been with us today,” Brant said. Co-worker Jill Holley shared, “This is my first time to help out, volunteer with the cause 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.“ For Hanner the most surprising was “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.”
Stacy Moorman, Purchasing Production Manager with Feeding America was equally fascinated to see the production process first hand. “This is a unique collaboration we have with the Church,” she said. “We are grateful to be able to get all the product from this ongoing partnership.”
Photos by Jennifer Martino.