Surplus food

Soon after its founding, Emmaus House launched a program that allowed area residents to take greater advantage of the federal surplus food program.  Sister Marie (Mimi Bodell) recalled that Muriel Lokey coordinated the program, and that “eventually she had a hundred women going to the warehouse to pick up surplus food and deliver it to the families.”

Grace Stone explained that “the place where you went to pick it up was off any bus line (on purpose we all felt).  They had plenty of boxes, but we had to bring our own boxes or they wouldn’t give us food.”  Staff member Dennis Goldstein recalled, “I went over there to see what it was like.  You’d go over and go through a line, and there’d be conveyor belt there and essentially you’d pick out, I don’t know, eight to ten food bags that were all marked U.S. Department of Agriculture Surplus Food, and get things like flour and peanut butter and whatever there was a surplus of.”  Grace Stone went on, “And the people who handed them out to you were all county prisoners, and the guards sat up on the top of the pile of boxes, with their guns cocked. . . . the guards didn’t really taunt us verbally, but they certainly did in their body language.”

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One Response to Surplus food

  1. Dave Morath says:

    Muriel Lokey’s file card system for keeping the surplus food operation organized was the model of efficiency. Forty years after my stint at Emmaus House, I use something similar at my church’s Food Bank. Muriel told me a few years ago that she fwlt that her organizational talents were vauled less than activism, but that was not true.

    The location of the surplus food depot was clearly not user friendly. I don’t think the Dept of Ag figured on us organizing a large scale delivery system. The only way for some recipients to eat was for them to spring for cab fare – a very expensive alternative.

    The fact that we were able to organize the huge numbers of volunteers was clearly a sign of the times. Women were just entering the paid workforce in the ’70s. It would be extremely difficult to find as large a group of very highly qualified and motivated volunteers today.

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