Tender Mercies help community, beyond

Adam Larck
Bart Rinkenberger tells attendees about what goes on inside the Midwest Food Bank on Thursday. Since opening, the food bank has produced more than 1 million Tender Mercies.

The Tender Mercies meals made by Midwest Food Bank in Morton has helped more than 500,000 people.

That stat is according to board member Bart Rinkenberger, who presented at the open house for the food bank on Thursday.

The open house gave the community a chance to come in and see what occurs at the packing and logistics division of the food bank, as well as hear an update on the food bank and how it is helping in Africa.

Rinkenberger said that more than 200 people came to see how the MFB has helped others.

"It went really well," he said. "We were really encouraged."

Since opening the new building in 2012, 105,000 hours have been donated to sort and package items at the food bank. The biggest item packaged for the food bank is the Tender Mercies, which is a dried, prepackaged meal that can serve four to six people.

The Tender Mercies are distributed locally through after school backpack programs and at local food pantries, such as Community Harvest.

The meals are also given out with backpack programs, relief centers and food pantries across the USA.

More than 702,000 packs were sent to Arkansas for their backpack program, and 50,000 packs have been sent to the Philippians.

Rinkenberger also talked about the budget that the food bank uses for its operation.

“Only 1 percent of the budget is dedicated to administration costs,” he said.

The other 99 percent goes to purchasing food and helping those in need.

After giving an update to the full house, the Rev. Shadrack Ogembo from Nairobi, Kenya, talked about a school that was started to help the slums in the area and how they are helping to feed children.

Currently, they are helping five schools feed 12,450 children in the area with Tender Mercies to lower the costs the schools have and increase the nutrition children get.

Ogembo said that, when he first got there, the children were eating dirt and drinking dirty water just to fill their stomach.

In 2002, they started the first school there, which rapidly grew. While it was demolished along with the slum in 2011, it was rebuilt and strengthened to what it is today.

Now, Rinkenberger said an East Africa Food Bank is planned for the area to provide to the schools and people there.

At the beginning, the Midwest Food Bank will support the new venture financially and with product, but Rinkenberger said that the look to make the new food bank self-sustaining.

After the presentation, attendees were able to walk around the warehouse, as well as see the machine in action that packs Tender Mercies.