This past week, we reached a milestone. In March, 2014, I visited with my former employer about a vision I had to supply our local food shelf with ground beef. The late Mr. Joe Lueken liked the idea and the program kicked off two months later. Sadly, Joe passed away, but the program continues on strong. This past week we reached our 10,000 lb milestone.
Here’s an excerpt from the article our local newspaper, The Bemidji Pioneer ran in 2014:
BEMIDJI — For 14 years, Wendell Affield helped his late friend’s family as they battled through homelessness and hunger, providing them meat from his farm butcher shop.
On Tuesday, he stood inside the Bemidji Community Food Shelf as those efforts were extended to the community at large.
Affield is part of a collaborative program between himself, Joe Lueken, the now-employee-owned Lueken’s Village Foods, the food shelf and the community.
Joe Lueken personally paid for a commercial “stuffer” — the machinery needed to push 30 pounds of ground meat through a tube into smaller one-pound sacks — as Lueken’s Village Foods donated $1,500 toward the newly created community meat program.
Affield, while helping his friend’s family over the years, long envisioned such a program.
“We helped the one family and there’s hundreds and hundreds of families in this community that need help,” he said. “If everyone that can pitches in a little, it makes life a little better.”
Lueken’s staff members — and Affield, who from 1985 to 2001 was the the butcher shop manager for Lueken’s — were on hand Tuesday to train two food shelf volunteers on how to process the meat.
“This has actually been fun this morning,” said Dea Paine, who has been volunteering at the food shelf since 1995 and has been on its board for about 15 years. “Except for the cranking — I’m short.”
Pam Johnson, a community member who began volunteering in September, usually works in the warehouse unloading trucks in the morning. But this day she wore gloves as she held the bag to the stuffer’s tube. As Glenn Carroll, a meat department manager with Lueken’s, turned the crank, the bag was filled with beef and Johnson then passed it to Paine, who would tape it shut, place it in the tray, and add it to the dozens awaiting food shelf clients.
In total, they bagged 400 pounds of ground beef.
“The theory behind this whole program is that labor is such a big part of the price of meat. So if the food shelf could purchase it direct, and the meat is processed by volunteers, all of that overhead is eliminated and it makes it all that much more affordable,” Affield said.