Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Victoria Fowler
Gazette Reporter 

Homestead Ministries expands distribution with local bagging


January 23, 2020

Tammy Lewis; Angie Collins; Peggy Zaring

From left to right: Tammy Lewis, Angie Collins and Peggy Zaring measure and bag spices for the lentil taco mix.

Homestead Ministries hosted its fourth soup bagging at the First Baptist Church in Colfax Thursday, Jan. 16, where they bagged 3,000 packages of soup for a Central Washington group.

The soup packets will be distributed to churches and food banks.

Coordinator Tom Riedner said the soup baggings began in 2014 when they became aware of people needing food.

"We tried to give peas and lentils and stuff like that to the food bank and the thing is they would give them right back to us because people don't know how to work them," Riedner said.

"Since people didn't know how to work these, we added the seasonings and we put how you make them and what it is in it all right there on the front label."

Of the 3,000 packages of soup, 1,000 are pea soup, 1,000 chili bean and 1,000 lentil taco mix. They also make a lentil chili.

"Our deal is to feed people, we give these bags to everybody," Riedner said. "The whole idea is to give these to people and they can go ahead and eat. This is really a community organization."

For example, one package of pea soup will feed six people, and costs Homestead Ministries approximately 32 cents.

From the 3,000 bags created, there will be approximately 24,000 meals provided.

These packages of soup, no matter who they are for, are free of charge. Other than shipments that go out to other areas, these packages of soup can be found at Les Schwab Tire in Colfax, Thrifty Grandmothers Thrift Shop and Whitman County Medical Clinic.

Riedner emphasized that they don't worry about where people are financially, their only concern is that these people are fed.

Products have been given to those in county and have traveled as far as Zimbabwe.

"We are working on a project to send product to the Philippines later this year, and we will give it all to these folks free of charge," Riedner said.

Different from previous events, at the Jan. 16 soup bagging, all the soups labels were in Spanish. Riedner said the reasoning behind this is because of their increase in deliveries to central Washington.

"We've been talking to folks over in central Washington, and a lot of the folks that will eat this will probably speak Spanish, and we wanted to make it easier for them," Riedner said.

From its beginning, Homestead Ministries is just breaking more than a million meals made in the past five years.

"Our organization is small, myself and Greg Nolan started this with our wives, and its kind of ballooned into this," Riedner said. "It's just one person talking to another person talking to another person."

He added that through the generosity of residents, Homestead Ministries has never had to ask for money from anyone.

"We have one farmer where the very first truck he gets off the field every year, he gives to us and that's about $5,500 worth of product," Riedner said. "He is a blessing and has done it four years in a row."

The process

To ensure top quality with each package, volunteers wear gloves in handling the product and all ingredients have set measurement.

The process of soup bagging begins with spice mixing.

"We have three seasonings we use and we keep recipes of all of them because they are each different," said Norma Schultz, a volunteer with Homestead Ministries. "We mix the spices here and then they go to the next station where they get put into smaller bags."

Norma and her husband Bob have been helping for the past three years.

After the spices are measured into their smaller bags they are sealed and put into the soup bagging assembly line.

At the bagging station, buckets of lentils, peas or beans are scooped and poured down a funnel into a plastic bag.

Trudy Libey

Trudy Libey prepares bags and seasonings to start packaging pea soup.

All lentils, beans and peas are measured at two cups and added into a bag with a seasoning packet specific for the recipe.

Gary and Trudy Libey, volunteers with Homestead Ministries and soup baggers, were busy bagging pea soup mix when they mentioned how this is always a need and supply that you just can't make enough of.

"It has been trial and error, but these recipes have been proven to be pretty good," Riedner said.

When volunteering at the soup bagging there is something available for everyone, no matter the age, to do.

"We try to make sure that anybody who works with us can do something within their limits," Riedner said. "Our whole idea is to bring people together so they can feel like they are doing some good and we have people that are doing some good."


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