Food bank’s efforts include ‘underground’ delivery for families restricted by religious beliefs

Stock image | Photo by Evening, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

HILDALE — Covert food deliveries made at undisclosed locations are feeding a number of families in the Short Creek area, a system developed by an innovative food bank to feed those who are prohibited from entering the building.

Of the more than 15,000 food banks and pantries dotting the nation, one in particular that serves residents in both Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, is going to great lengths to make sure families have enough to eat, even if it means going underground to do so.

Sign posting hours of operation at Heritage Family Services food bank, Colorado City, Ariz., July 25, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Heritage Family Services, formerly known as Short Creek Family Services, secures distributions from federal food programs, private donations and nonprofit organizations to provide food to more than 1,500 families living in the sister cities located at the Utah and Arizona border.

Every second and fourth Wednesday of the month, the doors open and volunteers distribute food to eligible individuals and families from a large warehouse.

But that doesn’t work for everyone, as the food bank’s co-founder Brian Mackert discovered.

Recalling a conversation he had with a woman who came to the warehouse one day, he said, “She walked up to me and said, ‘I’m not supposed to be here, but my family’s starving.'”

Mackert understood what the woman was telling him. He was born and raised in Short Creek as a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints until he left the area – and the religion – in his late teens.

FLDS members are taught not to trust those outside their faith, he said, and entering into a contract or agreement with former members or nonmembers is prohibited, even if that means going hungry.

Mackert’s wife Sherrie Kuns-Mackert, co-founder of the food bank, said she’s heard similar stories from others.

“They are prohibited from entering the building – period.”

Boxes of food donated by St. Mary’s Food Bank are shipped to Heritage Family Services, which provides food to needy families, Colorado City, Ariz., July 25, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

To ensure that those families are provided for, the couple developed a program where volunteers deliver food items to undisclosed locations that are then picked up by family.

“We do what we have to do, and it doesn’t matter how we have to do that,” Mackert said.

After leaving the Short Creek area in his teens, Mackert joined the U.S. Marine Corps, but said his love of the area, coupled with his passion and desire to serve his community, is what brought him back to his childhood home.

“More than anything I want these people to know they have rights,” he said, “and one is that they have the right to make their own decisions.”

He and his wife moved to the area in 2016 and quickly surmised that the community needed a food bank, with rising poverty fueled by an unemployment rate of 75 percent.

In addition, at about the same time, federal prosecutors charged FLDS leaders with running a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme by diverting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program proceeds from authorized beneficiaries to purchase nonfood goods.

Heritage Family Services also provides clothes to needy families, Colorado City, Ariz., July 25, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

After a slew of plea deals with individual defendants, the court disqualified the Short Creek area from receiving federally-subsidized food products, forcing existing food banks to close, which is one of the reasons the Mackerts returned to the area when they did.

After working with the court over the course of many months, the restriction was lifted and they were able to procure shipments of the subsidized food items to be distributed through the food bank.

“I couldn’t let people go hungry – not on my watch,” said Kuns-Mackert, a retired forensic social worker.

The couple’s latest challenge is the result of changes occurring in Hildale.

Court rulings have greatly reduced the church’s power over the community, and in November, voters elected city officials who are are not FLDS members. As a result, there’s been an exodus of FLDS families.

The relocation of so many families has resulted in a number of families without a wage earner, Mackert said at least temporarily while the man leaves to find employment and residence in a community outside of the area with the goal of relocating his family once he is established.

This can take time, and some families are not able to provide for themselves in the interim.

Colorado City Mayor Joseph Allred acknowledged that families are relocating to communities outside of Short Creek but, he said, even when wage-earners have to live apart for a time, those families are still able to have their needs met. If they do need additional resources, there are state and federal programs available to help them.

There may be families struggling, Allred said, but he’s not been made aware of any food-shortage issues affecting a large number of families. He is also unaware, he said, that food is being delivered “underground.”

A warehouse is sparse just before delivery on the morning of food distribution at Heritage Family Services, Colorado City, Arizona, July 25, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Overall, the Short Creek area is experiencing an economic boon driven by new business and commerce, Mackert said, but there are still individuals and families struggling to make ends meet, FLDS or not.

Providing food not only fills a basic need but helps stabilize the household and allows a family to take the money previously spent on food and use it for basic living expenses instead, which include items, materials and services purchased at local businesses.

“We are making a concerted effort to support the families in need, while at the same time, support local businesses,” Mackert said. “That keeps local money local.”

Since the food bank opened two years ago, the unemployment rate has dropped from 75 percent down to 60 percent, which he attributes to several factors, including: a boost to the local economy, area growth and the efforts of volunteers and government programs that provide food to needy families through the food bank. In addition, the free advertising provided to corporate sponsors that support the food bank is driving local commerce.

Heritage Family Services also provides clothing for children and adults, as well as other donated items. There is currently a need for new or gently-used shoes and clothing for children and youth – particularly with school starting soon – as well as clothing and shoes for adults.

“We really need clothing and shoes for these kids,” Kuns-Mackert said.

The food bank is staffed by volunteers and is open every second and fourth Wednesday of the month from noon to 7 p.m. MST and is open to families that have registered with the organization.

Heritage Family Services was founded in 2016 as a community humanitarian effort to alleviate hunger by working with Mary’s Food Bank, Feeding America, The Emergency Food Assistance Program and donations from the community as well as corporate partnerships.

The food bank is located at 75 N. Central Ave. in Colorado City, Arizona.

For more information or to sign up for food distribution, go to, visit Facebook or call telephone 559-786-5776.


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Real Life July 29, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    The pedophile cult that calls itself the FLDS needs eradicated NOW!

    • Utahguns July 29, 2018 at 8:03 pm

      The television show “Escaping Polygamy” on the Lifetime Cable channel highlights the atrocities of this cult and the pains and outright abuse members (primarily women and children) experience.
      It’s gut wrenching to see that this type of life and physical treatment is condoned by our government in Utah, in addition the LDS church, which does nothing to help these individuals.
      ….And I thought slavery and human trafficking was illegal in America.

      • Utahguns July 29, 2018 at 10:54 pm

        One particular “plig” group highlighted in the “Escaping Polygamy” program is the Kingston family, (known as The Order) that started approximately in the 1930’s and are headquartered in SLC.
        The 18 -26 sons of Daniel Kingston, (self proclaimed founder and supreme prophet mimicking the Warren Jeffs model) born from Daniel Kingston’s 13 wives, each have at least 14 -16 wives with approximately 9-14 children from each wife. The third generation of men (grandsons) , approximately 125-130 men, each have plural marriages of 7-12 wives each with 9 -10 children from each wife.
        Today, all total there’s approximately 20,000 to 25,000 members of this brainwashed cult residing in the SLC / Northern Utah area.

        Yes, they’re definitely among us in numbers you wouldn’t imagine.
        ….and many are trapped and cannot escape from this modern day brainwashed slave cult.
        All members use The Book of Mormon as their bible, see Daniel Kingston as the Supreme Being and wrongly interpret the BOM’s doctrines as their enlightment as the word of God.
        Quite a few of the latter day children only see their fathers once every two weeks and the wives work menial low paying jobs, having to rely on food stamps and other government assistance.
        When the estate of a son dies, the family gets nothing….all possessions and property goes directly to “the Order” . Surviving children who would normally get their parents estate has to BUY the family’s assets back from The Order.
        Absolutely pathetic….

        • Real Life July 30, 2018 at 10:41 am

          Absolutely sickening. You would think the embarrassment alone would prompt “regular” Mormons to step up and do something about it.

          • Dusty July 30, 2018 at 12:28 pm

            I know of no one, “Mormon” or otherwise, that is not sickened by the behavior of the leaders of FLDS. Just curious, Real Life, what do you think “regular” Mormons could do about it?

          • comments July 30, 2018 at 7:32 pm

            My theory is it’s because so many of the “top dogs” in both Utah’s govt and within the LDS apparatus are “secret polygamists”. If they aren’t child rapers themselves they are child rape enablers. It is sickening. Thanks prophet Joe Smith–such a great legacy you left us with.

          • Real Life July 31, 2018 at 12:25 am

            I only know what they don’t do about it.

  • AnnieMated July 29, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    ““She walked up to me and said, ‘I’m not supposed to be here, but my family’s starving.” Any man who up and leaves his family high and dry like that is not a man at all. Oh God this makes me so upset that I could scream. Heritage Family Services, how can I help?

  • Bender July 30, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Mixed feelings on this. On one hand letting children suffer hunger is gotta be near the top of don’t-do-this list for moral behavior. On the other hand hunger encouraging FLDS members to disobey evil and nonsensical mandates is a good thing. I don’t know. I got nothing. Ugly and messy situation all around.

  • Rose2017 July 30, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Most of us would want the hungry fed, but it is a fine line sometimes as to when you end up encouraging and supporting lifestyles which encourage welfare dependence and lack of a good education for women so they can earn enough to keep their children.

  • justsaying July 30, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    Ever notice that all religions have a dark side? They tend to look the other way on issues going on inside. You want to really find faith? Lose religion. Do it on your own.

    • Mike P July 31, 2018 at 10:57 am

      justsaying, I’m with you 100% on that.

  • Mike P July 31, 2018 at 10:17 am

    I don’t understand why, if their hungry, they don’t walk over to the other Multi Trillion dollar tax shelter that’s just one “f” letter away and get food. Just a different Prophet, minus some of the pedophilia.

    • comments July 31, 2018 at 1:42 pm

      “minus some of the pedophilia”

      From what I understand the whole point of flds mormonism is polygamy and pedophilia. If they lost those they’d lose they’re identity. I guess they’d still have those goofy handmade pioneer-style dresses tho…

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