JOPLIN, Mo. —
One by one, as huge crates of canned food were lifted from the back of a semi trailer, John Pendergrass maneuvered them against the wall at the Salvation Army warehouse in Joplin.
“Wow,” said Pendergrass, warehouse manager, after the last pallet — holding 56 cases of diced potatoes — was in place. “This is the largest amount of food I've ever seen.”
In all, 14 tons of canned food were given to Salvation Army, Crosslines of Joplin and Soul's Harbor from the Quapaw Tribe and Downstream Casino and Resort on Thursday. Three other food pantries in Oklahoma and Kansas also received donations.
“You usually don't get a semi-load of food (dropped) at your front door,” said Lt. James Curry of the Joplin Salvation Army.
Tribe members purchased the food at a discount price from Allen Canning in Siloam Springs, Ark., said John Berrey, Quapaw chairman.
“We really are just trying to increase the awareness of the public for the needs of the area food pantries,” Berrey said. “Just from what the people have been telling us the demand (in this area) is very high, and more than anyone ever thinks about.”
Berrey said he also hopes to galvanize other area corporations to undertake similar charitable actions.
The load at the Salvation Army warehouse included 170 cases each of corn, green and lima beans, carrots, sweet peas and black beans, as well as the diced potatoes.
“This will go a long ways in keeping our local food banks and feeding programs stocked,” Curry said.
Curry said the Salvation Army serves meals to about 300 people per day.
“(The food) will also go to our Christmas basket program — we have 800 families we'll be providing food for this year,” he said.
Kathy Lewis, executive director of Crosslines, said demand has been steadily rising there over the last decade. In 2003, volunteers served 2,206 families. By 2008, that number had more than doubled to 4,927 families. In 2010, 7,720 families requested food aid. Last year, that number rose to 7,881 — an all-time record high.
Through early November, Crosslines volunteers have handed out food to 7,816 families.
The food from Downstream Casino, she said, “will most definitely help us. It also helps that the food — vegetables and beans — is of a nutritional value to our clients.”
Other recipients of the food donations Thursday included the Ottawa County (Okla.) Nutrition Coalition and the Inter-Tribal Council Food Distribution Center, both in Miami, Okla., and the Southwest Kansas Food Shop and Pantry in Baxter Springs, Kan.