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Pastor Ron Rall & Carolyn Stortz of Orphan Grain Train at the Timothy Lutheran Church Food Pantry / Photo by Bethany Prange

Sometimes salvation can be found in the smallest of spaces.

Down a modest stairwell, there is a room small enough to be a closet. It’s walls are lined with shelves of food. Here, South City families in need find hope for another day. They find the food they need to survive.

Though the room is small, and the shelves are scarcely full, this space is making a big impact on the community.

From the basement of Timothy Lutheran Church on Fyler Avenue, volunteers run a small food pantry, handing out food to 40 to 80 families a month.

Most of the food comes – if indirectly – from the St. Louis Area Foodbank.  The Foodbank distributes boxes of food to an agency called Orphan Grain Train, an international Christian humanitarian organization.

Since 2009, the Missouri-Illinois Branch of the Orphan Grain Train has been soliciting food from the St. Louis Area Foodbank and distributing it to small food pantries like Timothy Lutheran Church.

Due to a lack of funds, storage space or volunteers, these pantries are too small to become independent agencies of the Foodbank. Yet they still struggle to bring in enough donations to feed their people in need.

That’s where Orphan Grain Train comes in.

“They don’t have the resources, but most are located in a position in the city that is in extreme need,” says Carolyn Stortz of Orphan Grain Train.

Orphan Grain Train distributes food to pantries at these St. Louis churches and agencies:

 

• Timothy Lutheran Church
• Great Commission Lutheran Church
• Lutheran Community Center
• Christian Friends of New Americans
• St. John’s Lutheran Church
• Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard

The whole process relies heavily on volunteers. Volunteers from Orphan Grain Train order and pick up the food from the Foodbank. They unload the truck at their warehouse, pack frozen food into freezers, and manage the allocation to the food pantries.

Food pantry volunteers pick up food from Orphan Grain Train and take it back to their pantries where they distribute to the hungry families and individuals they serve.

Once a month, the Foodbank hosts a mobile market at Orphan Grain Train, distributing fresh produce and other perishable items. This program gives the smaller pantries a chance to provide healthier fresh food.

Through these pantries, Orphan Grain Train provides food to more than 10,000 individuals per quarter.

Many of the individuals served by these small food pantries are legal immigrants to the United States. Timothy Lutheran Church alone serves a congregation of individuals from at least a dozen different nationalities.

“Immigrants who have recently arrived sometimes come with only the clothes on their backs,” Stortz says.

Though Timothy Lutheran Church has been working with Orphan Grain Train for about two years, they only recently became an official partner.

“We opened our pantry when there was a downturn in the economy,” says Pastor Ronald Rall of Timothy Lutheran Church. “We had lots of people out of work.”

Thanks to congregation donations and the help from Orphan Grain Train, they’ll be able to continue serving families in need.

Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank