RSVP of Enid teamed up with Tyson Foods and local volunteers to distribute 40,000 pounds of protein Wednesday to 42 nonprofit agencies and churches from across Northwest Oklahoma.

The food distribution was part of a $13 million commitment made by Tyson Foods to help feed those in need in its plant communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a March 27 company statement, John Randal Tyson, chief sustainability officer for Tyson Foods, said the effort is meant to help workers and community members get by through the tough times brought on by the pandemic.

“For many of our communities, the ripple effect of the quarantine means jobs are lost, bills stack up and people need food beyond the grocery store,” Tyson wrote. “In the month of March alone, we donated 16 million meals to Feeding America food banks, pantries located in Tyson communities and to our very own team members. That’s more than $11 million in protein for hunger relief in less than a month.

“In addition, more than 15 truckloads of product have been delivered to Tyson plants for distribution to team members and those local communities in need,” Tyson wrote.

One of those truckloads of food came to Enid. But, it almost went to Arkansas for lack of a distribution network here to get the food sent out to those in need.

Christy Baker, RSVP of Enid executive director, said she heard the food was going to be sent elsewhere, and asked for two days to organize a distribution.

She worked with Loaves & Fishes of Northwest Oklahoma, United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma and Long Term Care Authority to identify nonprofit agencies, churches, food pantries and long-term care facilities that could benefit from the provided food.

Within two days, 42 agencies had been identified from Enid, but also from “Newkirk to Alva, from Watonga, Crescent, Perry and everywhere within that area,” Baker said.

Each of the agencies was assigned a 15-minute pickup window between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday, to maintain social distancing, to come and pick up boxes of food from a semi-trailer on North Grand.

Considering the short notice, Baker said the distribution went “really smooth.”

“Everyone has been really good about their pickup times,” she said, “and it’s been smooth, really, considering all the food that’s been distributed.”

Baker said when the day started, the trailer was packed as full as it could be with boxes of chicken tenders, minute steaks and other prepared meat products. Each of the boxes would cost upward of $50 if bought retail, Baker said.

Some of the agencies left with as much as $5,000 worth of prepared protein, to feed families in need.

Terry Mote, with Enid Micronesian Coalition, was leading one of the agencies there to pick up food on Wednesday.

He said the food will go directly to Marshallese and Chuukese families living in New View Apartments, and will enable the coalition to support about 60 households and 320 people.

“It’s always good, anything we can do to keep people from going hungry,” Mote said.

Gary Lillie, manager of Golden Oaks Village, said the donated food will help raise morale for the senior living community’s 240 residents.

“It’s really going to be a blessing for them,” Lillie said, “because right now, we’re doing take-out meals for our independent-living residents, and it’s also going to bless our nursing home and assisted-living residents.”

Beyond the residents, Lillie said the food will help Golden Oaks provide meals for the staff, who normally provide their own food. Lillie said Golden Oaks is feeding the staff during the crisis, both to offer a savings to their employees and to prevent them having to leave the facility during the day, and limit their chances of being exposed to the virus out in town.

“This deal is very serious, and we’re taking it very seriously out there,” Lillie said. “Tyson is very generous in allowing us to have this food, and it’s going to positively affect a lot of people.”

Rhonda Stevison was there Wednesday to pick up food for the Enid Faith Ways homeless ministry, and for the Mamre Meal, served to those in need, 6 p.m. Mondays at University Place Christian Church, 2107 E. Broadway.

Stevison said there’s a greater need among the homeless population during the pandemic, especially since they feel even more cut off and disconnected than usual.

She said the Tyson donation will help stretch the available funds in the church’s homeless ministry, and “it means we will be able to help more people who are out on the street.”

Gary Unbehauen drove in from Cherokee to pick up a load of food for Byron Baptist Church.

Unbehauen said the church helps feed 25 to 30 families in Cherokee, including older members and young families of the congregation, but also the elderly and in need from around the community.

“We help out wherever we can,” Unbehauen said.

For those in need, Unbe-hauen said the Tyson donation will “help ease up the worries about where they’re going to get their next meal.”

But, Unbehauen said he hopes both those in need, and the community at large, will see more than just food being provided.

“Maybe more people will see the love of the Lord,” he said, “working through all these people helping to provide for them.”

James Neal – ENE Staff Writer