LA GRANDE — The inventory list is one Audrey Smith may want to frame.

Smith is the manager of the Northeast Oregon Regional Food Bank, and the document details the contents of a shipment of hope — almost 19 tons of food the organization received Thursday, Feb. 11, from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“If I had a dream of the perfect delivery pulling up, this would be it,” Smith said Thursday as she looked at pallets of food a semitrailer delivered from Salt Lake City, Utah.

The semi had 37,889 pounds of food, including peanut butter, packages of instant mashed potatoes and boxes of macaroni and cheese.

Smith explained she was happy to see many of these items partly because they are ones often asked for but the Oregon Food Bank — which serves the Northeast Oregon Regional Food Bank — has not provided.

She noted it has been several months since the Oregon Food Bank sent canned fruit and boxes of macaroni and cheese. And she said this is the first time she recalls ever having anything close to this much jam available.

“I have never received pallets of jam before,” Smith said.

The amount of peanut butter also is substantial, welcome news because the Oregon Food Bank has been cutting back providing the popular staple.

“There is a peanut butter shortage,” Smith said.

The LDS Church shipped the food from its Bishops Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City. Volunteers and church-service missionaries staff the storehouses.

And the church produced much of the food. This included the many pallets of peanut butter, which came from a cannery the church owns and operates in Houston, Texas, said George Chadwick of La Grande. Chadwick is the local leader of the LDS Church in Northeast Oregon.

Chadwick began working on arranging a donation from the church to the Northeast Oregon Regional Food Bank after receiving a request for food from a church member in Grant County. He checked and found the food bank was in need of a boost and helped to get a shipment of food to it. Chadwick said his role in the large donation was a minor one.

The Northeast Oregon Regional Food Bank, based in La Grande, is a part of Community Connection of Northeast Oregon Inc.

Rob Murphy of Deseret Industries, a part of the LDS Church, drove the semi hauling the load. He said he has delivered numerous large shipments of food and items throughout the United States. In many cases he has driven into disaster zones, including communities hit by hurricanes. Murphy said he never tires of making deliveries to those in need.

“It is a wonderful thing to be a part of,” he said.

Smith said the timing of the delivery was ideal. She noted donations to the food bank are down, which is normal for this time of year. She said donations typically fall the first few months after Christmas.

Supplies at the food bank also are down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said fewer food drives have been conducted during the pandemic because they involve more contact, putting people at risk. And the recession the pandemic has caused makes the situation worse, increasing the need for food.

“Demand is way up,” Smith said.

Smith said significant financial contributions also helped the Northeast Oregon Regional Food Bank. Grocery Outlet in Island City donated $13,000 to the food bank in 2020 following a fundraising drive, and the state provided $60,000 in 2020 for food purchases due to the pandemic. She said the state normally does not provide such funding.

Those funds, Smith said, have played a big role in sustaining the food bank in early 2021.

And the shipment from the LDS Church will go a long way toward helping Smith feel more at ease.

Smith described it as “a huge relief.”

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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