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Feeding South Dakota recently got a 70,000-pound boost.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently donated 69,644 pounds of food to the statewide hunger relief organization, according to a news release.

Jennifer Stensaas, marketing and communications coordinator for Feeding South Dakota, told the Rapid City Journal the food was delivered on two large trucks, one to Rapid City and one to Pierre. Rapid City's arrived the week of March 17, and Pierre's arrived on April 17. 

In the release, Feeding South Dakota said the food donations include fruits, vegetables, soups, pastas "and other much needed items. They expect it to provide 58,036 meals to people across the state. 

Stensaas said most of the food will stay in western South Dakota to stock food pantry shelves, and be distributed via Feeding South Dakota's mobile food pantries and agency partners. 

Often informally referred to as the LDS or Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. Its congregations across the world are divided into regions called "stakes," similar to a diocese in the Catholic Church organizational structure.

In South Dakota, there are two stakes: Rapid City and Sioux Falls. The Rapid City South Dakota Stake encompasses all of western South Dakota, from the North Dakota border to Chadron, Nebraska, and from Wyoming to the Pierre area.  

Curtis Schmidtlein, president of the Rapid City South Dakota Stake, said the food donation came from the church's humanitarian headquarters in Salt Lake City, which are supported by the church's congregations across the nation and globe. 

Each month, Schmidtlein said, LDS congregations collect a "fast offering." Church members are asked to fast for 24 hours, then make a donation on these "fast Sundays." 

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Most of the money collected goes to support local people in need, Schmidtlein said. A tank of gas, a bag of groceries — even transporting a family into Rapid City and helping them buy basic home furniture, like a kitchen table and chairs, are among the ways the church uses the funds. 

Whatever money is left over at the end of the month goes to the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City, used to support things like stocking its food warehouse. 

So, when a congregation leader in Hot Springs wanted to know how to help a local food pantry, Schmidtlein knew just who to contact. When the humanitarian director offered to send a truck to Rapid City, Schmidtlein said, "Why not Pierre, too?"

Rapid City's delivery was shared with the Ministerial Association Food Pantry in Hot Springs and the Storehouse in Custer. The church also delivered flood relief supplies to the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge.

According to Schmidtlein, though the LDS church is heavily involved in mission and humanitarian efforts, this was the largest donation the church has made directly to a South Dakota organization. 

“Feeding South Dakota is excited to receive this donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Matt Gassen, CEO of Feeding South Dakota, said in the release. “We are humbled that they have chosen to partner with our organization to ensure that this donation reaches all those who struggle with hunger on a daily basis. We are grateful for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints commitment to end hunger in our state as well as across the country.”

Stensaas said Feeding South Dakota still has a current need for non-perishable food donations to keep its shelves stocked. 

She said people and organizations can organize a food drive, or donate on their own by buying the same type of items they would for their own kitchen’s pantry.

Contact the Rapid City Food Bank & Pantry at 348-2689 to schedule a drop-off or pickup time for donations, or to register a food drive. People can also donate online at feedingsouthdakota.org/how-to-help/donate-funds/.

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Contact Candy DenOuden at candy.denouden@rapidcityjournal.com

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Online editor

Online Editor for the Rapid City Journal.