This story is part of a Scroll series highlighting hunger in Eastern Idaho.
A line of cars waits in the parking of the church building at 7 a.m. Eight volunteers wearing gloves and vests greet each car driving by, the line slowly moving forward.
“Two milks and one bread for Moss,” says a guy holding the list of orders while the volunteers carry boxes of food and hand them to the driver.
The driver puts the boxes in her trunk, where the children’s doll lays.
These are the volunteers and service missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., a delivery truck leaves the bishops’ storehouse in Idaho Falls and deliver food orders to the people who need food assistance in Rexburg.
“This is a big order,” says the guy with the list.
Three young adults come out of the pick-up truck and fill the trunk with boxes of food. Stephanie Joseph walks up to them and greets them.
“I’m the Relief Society president, and I’m here to pick up the food for a friend,” said Joseph, a BYU-Idaho alumna who belongs to the local Young Single Adult ward.
Joseph looks at the line and asks if she would be able to get the box of food before 9 a.m. because she needs to be at work by 9:30 a.m. in Idaho Falls.
“Every Thursday, if I know someone orders food, I would prepare myself, because someone might not pick up their food,” Joseph said.
Just for the past three months, Joseph said she has filled out 10 to 15 orders for the members in her ward to receive assistance from the bishops’ storehouse.
According to Feed the Americans recent study, Madison County has the highest food insecurity rate in Idaho. Jon Walz, a service missionary who helps deliver the food, said he has seen an increasing number of food orders from Rexburg in recent years.
“We used to only deliver food orders on Tuesday, now we have almost same amount of orders in Thursday as Tuesday,” Walz said.
Joseph said she notices some students are struggling with living by themselves and paying rent. With so many students in Rexburg, it becomes difficult for them to find a job that can pay for all their necessities.
“If we help them get food for free, then it helps save up the money to go grocery shopping,” Joseph said.
The bishops’ storehouse is a welfare program of the Church of Jesus Christ, whose mission is to “help members become self-reliant, to care for the poor and the needy, and to give service.”
The Church has 115 bishops’ storehouses in the U.S. and Canada. Dan Ward, the welfare service field manager, said there are seven bishops’ storehouses located in Idaho and Montana. The bishops’ storehouse in Idaho Falls processes and delivers the food orders to Rexburg, Ashton, Grace, Soda Springs and Victor.
A Church spokesperson said to the Deseret News that the bishops’ storehouses in the U.S. and Canada hold enough provisions to meet the projected needs of Latter-day Saints members requiring food assistance for two years.
Ward said most of their food comes from the central storehouse in Salt Lake City, and they get their produce from the local businesses.
“The Church produces roughly half of the products that we offer through the storehouse,” Ward said. “Our goal is to keep 3 to 6 months goal of demand in hand. … if we go through 10 cases of tuna fish a month, we want to have either 30 to 60 cases on hand to make sure we have enough for a good amount of time. That helps with our delivery so we are not running out.”
According to the Church handbook, each person who desires to receive assistance from the bishop’s storehouse needs to meet with the local bishop. Their bishop would then discuss the need of the individual and fill out the order to be sent to the nearby bishops’ storehouse.
Requesters can select from a list of 25 categories of products, including canned meats, desserts, fresh fruits, baby products and household products.
However, not all bishops’ storehouses operate the same. Ward said in some areas where there are no nearby bishops’ storehouses, the bishop and the leaders of the ward can use funds from the Church and take the person to the grocery store to get the things they need.
“The bishop has the process where he is trying to help people not subsist on welfare for the long term, but he is trying to get them where they can subsist on their own,” said Roger Warner, a former bishop of a BYU-Idaho student ward.
Warner said he had helped five different students receive help from the bishops’ storehouse during his time of service as a bishop. He said the assistance from the bishops’ storehouse is meant to be temporary; he encouraged students who need help to attend self-reliance class and seek out government assistance.
“The Church’s welfare is to support life, not lifestyle,” Warner said.