“Church Donates Food to Needy in Soviet Union,” Ensign, May 1991, 106
Food packages provided through the Church helped take the edge off hunger for hundreds of needy people in the Soviet Union late in February.
Some 1,800 packages of food were distributed to Latter-day Saints and others in Leningrad, Vyborg, and Moscow, in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, as well as in Tallinn, Estonia.
The packages were delivered as part of a project approved by Church leaders in Salt Lake City and directed by the Church’s Europe Area Presidency. The project was a response to a request for aid from the branch president in Leningrad. Members in the other three cities, where there are also branches of the Church, were facing similar needs, said President Gary L. Browning of the Finland Helsinki East Mission.
The Area Welfare Committee called on the Frankfurt Germany Stake and the Frankfurt Germany Servicemen Stake to organize, prepare, and ship the supplies. Peter Zarse, a high councilor in the Frankfurt stake and temple recorder for the Frankfurt Germany Temple, directed the efforts. He called the project a “marvelous” opportunity “to serve our neighbors in Russia.”
Because other humanitarian relief efforts had depleted stocks of packaged goods available, needed items had to be purchased in bulk, then repacked in the required quantities and weights, Brother Zarse explained. A crew of members, including a specially organized group of young single adults from the Frankfurt Germany Stake, spent two days preparing, packing, and loading the food. A severe snowstorm hampered their efforts, “but in the end nothing could stand between these Saints and the accomplishment of this labor of love,” Brother Zarse said.
In all, they handled twenty-three tons of food. Each 12-kilogram (26.5-pound) box of food contained flour, rice, macaroni, cooking oil, cereal grains, powdered milk, dried fruit, and vitamins. Each box represented one month’s ration for one person.
The project was financed largely through donations from European members, with some donations from North America. The powdered milk and vitamins were provided through the Church’s Welfare Services Department.
The packages were sent to the Soviet Union by truck—880 to Leningrad, 400 to Vyborg, 200 to Moscow, and 320 to Tallinn.
In each city, the food boxes were divided evenly among Church members and others. In most cases, branch leaders obtained the names of needy citizens of other faiths from city social welfare offices and delivered packages to the people in person, President Browning reported. Some packages were delivered to children’s funds, schools, hospitals, and senior citizens’ homes.
Viacheslav Efimov, president of the Leningrad First Branch, reported that the food parcels provided “a tremendous uplift” to Church members in Leningrad. They in turn collected money to help others in need, he said.
Both Latter-day Saints and others who received food parcels were invited to donate fast offerings or funds to help the needy if they could. Each food box contained a flyer explaining that the food was free and outlining principles of the Church’s welfare system. A number of recipients made contributions.
In response to the gift, an elderly woman in Vyborg wrote, “I can’t believe that someone cared enough about me to send this package. Thank you, whoever you are!” An individual in Leningrad expressed thanks, adding, “May God save and protect you.”
A young priest who helped distribute the food boxes reported that many LDS recipients commented about “how glad they were that the Savior thinks of them and loves them. During the long years they lived without faith in Jesus Christ, no one thought about them, and now God has sent them help.”