Tackling Hunger during a Pandemic

St. Joseph’s Indian School dining hall staff help load hundreds of boxes on to a school bus at the start of one of the food box deliveries to reservation communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic created many uncertainties. But one thing was clear — unless St. Joseph’s Indian School jumped into action, some children and families in reservation communities could go hungry.

When our students were away from school this past spring and summer due to the pandemic, some students didn’t just leave their classrooms and homes. They left behind three healthy meals a day. They left behind nutritious snacks. They left behind the certainty of knowing there would always be enough to eat.

We knew we had to do something, and fast.

Over the course of the summer, St. Joseph’s put over 26,000 miles on the road while making food box deliveries.

With the help of so many supporters from around the world, St. Joseph’s launched into action. Dining Hall staff got on the phone to place bulk food orders. Child Services staff worked to create a plan for food deliveries and mapped out routes to reach our students at their reservation homes. Buses, driven by staff members, with essential food items were loaded and departed campus in the mission to feed our Native American families.

And because of that, hungry children and families were put at ease.

Boxes were delivered on the front porch to students and their families in reservation communities.

After several trips across the state of South Dakota totaling 26,062 miles, over 100 families received several food boxes to help keep their refrigerators and pantries full. When it was all said and done, we were able to distribute:

  • 2,269 gallons of milk
  • 2,168 loaves of bread
  • 9,030 apples
  • 7,232 oranges
  • 730 pounds of bananas
  • 9,720 eggs
  • 428 boxes of cereal
  • 4,280 cheese sticks
  • 1,712 cans of soup
  • 2,140 pounds of flour
  • 600 pounds of rice
  • And 972 USDA donated cases of dairy/produce/meat

And that’s just what we were able to track. That list doesn’t include the hundreds of jars of peanut butter, pasta noodles and sauce, canned vegetables and fruits, canned chicken, chili and beef stew, macaroni and cheese, fruit snacks and more that accompanied each box.

Each family received several gallons of milk, loaves of bread, fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy, eggs, and dry goods to help them through the summer months.

As we look at that list, we feel two things: relieved and humbled. Relieved because compassionate people opened their hearts to help us care for our students and their families in a time of great need. Humbled because God chose St. Joseph’s to do this wonderful work.

This outreach effort was not easy. It included many detours and setbacks. Some of our students live in very remote areas that are difficult to find via map — leaving us traveling blind several times. Weather didn’t always cooperate and included heavy rain and hail. Also, grocery items you might not expect were often difficult to find.

“There’s stuff we’ve gotten for years that became discontinued by the manufacturers or they were said to be unavailable due to COVID-19,” said Mike, St. Joseph’s Food Services Coordinator. “We would place orders and then when the truck arrived, sometimes we’d see we were shorted 60-80 cases worth of items. Some of the simplest stuff is unavailable or very hard to get — like soup and pepper.”

But, hiccups like that couldn’t derail the outreach mission. St. Joseph’s stayed the course and found a way to compile hundreds and hundreds of large food boxes for families in need.

“The care package came at the most needed time and everyone was excited for the new stuff they got. We want to say a BIG ‘thank you’ to you all for always keeping us in your hearts and making sure we are taken care of.” — Cordell

“Thank you so much for the food. It was greatly appreciated and was really good to see the [St. Joseph’s] ladies. It made my son happy.” — Betty

“Thank you for the boxes. It really helped me out.” — Avis

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” — Philippians 2:4

Wóphila tȟáŋkamany thanks — to everyone who made this summer outreach possible by putting the interests of our students and their families at the forefront. We can’t express how grateful we are.

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

One thought on “Tackling Hunger during a Pandemic”

  1. How beautiful and wonderful! You are doing what Jesus wants us to do….serve others!
    God bless you all always!

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