By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Liberal’s food cupboards have gotten an early Christmas gift.
In June, Wal-Mart was looking to start a new project to release surplus food to local cupboards.
There was one problem, however, according to Society for Prevention of Bored Housewives Director Ada Linenbroker.
“Those food items were to be frozen for release and that these food cupboards were in need of freezers to put this food into,” she said.
At that time, three SPBH members were working at Wal-Mart, and when they heard about the project, they decided to step up and purchase a new freezer for each local cupboard.
“The great news is the project is moving ahead, and food is picked up weekly by the director of the Stepping Stone Shelter weighed and processed and then divided between the other shelters,” Linenbroker said.
Stepping Stone is a satellite of the Kansas Food Bank in Wichita.
“I fill out the same forms they use,” shelter director Pat Allsbury said. “I report to them weekly. We’re subject to their audits, health inspections.”
Allsbury said at this point in time, Wal-Mart is the only one contributing to the food bank through Stepping Stone.
“I’ve been told Dillon’s is going to participate, but they haven’t started yet,” she said. “This is called Wal-Mart Agency Partnerships with Feeding America. It is going on as far as I know nationwide with Wal-Mart. We do also get weekly donations and have for quite a long time from Best Market.”
Allsbury said, however, the most interesting part of the story is what happens after that.
“So far, since the inception of our partnership, we have received 14,066 pounds of food,” she said. “We have several food cupboards in town, along with some churches that give food to their members that are needing it, but not to the public in general.”
Allsbury said the cupboards have been contacted, along with other shelters that do onsite feeding.
“When I go pick up all of this food, and it’s quite a lot, we bring it back here,” she said. “I have to have weights and temperatures recorded, and we call all of these other agencies in town and tell them ‘This is what we have, please come and get it.’”
In addition to Stepping Stone, Liberal has United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries, the Bread of Life cupboard through Fellowship Baptist Church and New Community Missionary Baptist Church.
“Those are the four that Ada’s group bought freezers for. In addition to those four, we call Liberal Area Rape Crisis, SKADAF, the Senior Center,” Allsbury said. “We’ve had so much bakery. We tend to have tons and tons of bakery.”
Stepping Stone has likewise implemented partnerships with Project Hope in Hugoton and a food cupboard in Turpin, Okla.
“If everybody else has all they need, we call them, and they help take excess,” Allsbury said. “That helps. It is a lot of food. Wal-Mart has been very generous. It is now down to twice a week I go and bring food back here.”
Allsbury said the other cupboards have been thrilled by the news as well.
“I called a meeting when we first started this with a representative from all of those places and explained to them that I’m happy to go pick up the food and do the paperwork,” she said. “I can’t house it. I don’t have room to house it. They know that when we call, they need to come right away and help out. We don’t have room for it. So far, they’re terribly excited.”
Allsbury said other cupboards do distribution to get rid of food regularly, and some of them have more freezer rooms than others.
“Some of them only take the canned goods and shelf stable things,” she said. “It’s just worked out. If it’s a 25-pound bag of sugar or flour, we keep it because we cook. If it’s a 5-pound bag, we let one of them have it so they can put it in a box for a family. It’s just been kind of a learn as you go.”
In addition to the cupboards in Turpin and Hugoton, Allsbury said Stepping Stone is looking to add others to the list, but only if it becomes necessary.
“Those two are only for overflow after everybody here has all they can handle,” she said. “Then they can use some of it. Everybody in Liberal gets their part first. If we still have some left, we call them.”
Allsbury said UMMAM does food boxes, and this is generally done in conjunction with the agency’s commodity distribution program on an as-needed basis.
As for the shelter itself, in recent years, Stepping Stone has struggled to make ends meet. Allsbury believes this will always be the case, but she said this year has been a little easier than the past.
“Hopefully, because more people are aware that we’re here and what we do, but just because of the type of work we do, it’ll always be a struggle,” she said. “The expenses were much greater this year. We are required by our main grant to have a fire inspection and health inspection, which ended up costing us thousands in upgrades to meet standards.”