Chicken breast fillets, smoked pork chops, sausage links, kiwi fruit, oranges, cauliflower, and queso dippers were just a few of the selections in Christyn Schroeder’s pre-ordered food package last month from Prairie Land Foods.
Every third Saturday, a group of 30 to 50 participants meets at the food building on the Marion County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro to unload and distribute food, and socialize a bit while carrying out their volunteer duties.
“I’ve been doing this since it started about six years ago,” said Schroeder, of rural Hillsboro. “I work for children and family services and see every day how people are struggling to make ends meet. This is one way I have found for my family, because I know how hard it is, to put groceries on the table, affordably.”
Schroeder said ordering food in bulk was one way to save money and facilitate better meal planning at the same time.
“Every month I get an order form and I can plan around that,” she said. “I know what the staple items are going to be, and then when I go the grocery store I know exactly what I need to fill out a meal for my family. I’m not spending extra on indecisions.”
Schroeder also said she liked another aspect of belonging to an organized food-buying group such as Prairie Land Foods.
“Volunteering and giving back to the community is just part of my DNA,” she said. “We get credit for keeping track of volunteer hours and it feels good. I also enjoy working together with friends and family when we get together to distribute food.”
Prairie Land Foods organizer June Glasglow, of Hillsboro, said ‘paying it forward’ was an important mantra of the group.
“Part of this program is to save money, the other part is to help people feel good about the things they already do to help others,” she said.
Glasglow, a paid staff member from the parent-organization in Topeka, said the group was able to save money on grocery items by buying at discounted prices.
“We listen to the customers and try to buy what people are really wanting and needing,” she said. “We buy through brokers around the U.S. and get quantity discount prices.”
Glasglow said Prairie Land Foods actually served 120 locations throughout the state each month. Even though the loaded, refrigerated semi-truck makes only one stop in Marion County each month, several sites such as Ramona, Marion, and Florence, come to Hillsboro to pick up their orders.
“We welcome anyone to join,” Glasglow said. “There are not any income guidelines, age restrictions, or approvals needed. People just pay for the order when it is placed, and then pick up their food when it comes.”
Glasglow said more people used to belong to the Prairie Land Foods club in the area, but with the stricken economy, it became hard for some to pay upfront before their order came.
“I always work with people,” she said. “It they need more time to pay, we can work that out.”
Schroeder said she enjoyed being part of the food group because it just made her life simpler.
“It helps me not to have to wonder what I am going to fix for supper each night,” she said. “It’s like having an affordable party in the fridge.”