Welfare Square: Service by the Bottle and Loaf


Bottles of rich, red spaghetti sauce wind their way along the conveyor to the cooling tunnel, then the labeling machine, and finally to boxing and stacking for temporary storage. But their eventual destination is the dinner table of Church members in Los Angeles or Atlanta or some other place where a Latter-day Saint family is in need.

Or maybe some of them will end up on the table of a family, Latter-day Saint or not, who were left without food because of a disaster.

The spaghetti sauce is one of the products of the Church cannery at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City. And the cannery is just one of the facilities on the square where members have the opportunity to help provide for those in need.

Laid out on some 13.5 acres about a mile west of downtown Salt Lake City, the square also includes a bakery, a dairy plant, a Deseret Industries thrift store, a bishops’ storehouse and store serving families that receive Church assistance, an employment center, and tall silos for storing wheat.

The cannery at Welfare Square, one of 97 Church cannery facilities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, produces bottled spaghetti sauce and salsa, applesauce, and raspberry, strawberry, and peach jams—foods too acidic for long-term storage in metal cans—that go to bishops’ storehouses.

Products from this cannery and from the bakery and dairy plant on Welfare Square are found in the store attached to the bishops’ storehouse, along with canned meat or vegetables and staple goods produced by Church welfare operations in other areas.

The Deseret Industries thrift store on the square offers the public donated clothing and other household items at reasonable prices. It also provides employment and job training for those who work there.

The bulk of the food produced at the cannery goes into the Church’s welfare system, but a portion is also donated to food banks and other charitable operations throughout the United States. Several million pounds of food are distributed from Welfare Square each year.

Local members do much of the work in food production and certain other operations on the square. Volunteers from stakes in the Salt Lake City area donated some 200,000 hours in labor at Welfare Square last year.

Sanctifying to the Giver and Receiver

President Marion G. Romney

“We are anxious to make our people independent, industrious, and self-sufficient. We want to accomplish this in a way which will be sanctifying to the giver as well as the receiver. When we can understand this principle, our current welfare activities will take on more meaning.” President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988) of the First Presidency, “Work and Welfare: A Historical Perspective,” Ensign, May 1982, 87.

[photos] Photography by Don L. Searle, except as noted

[photo] Far right, facing page: A volunteer from a Salt Lake area stake stacks freshly baked bread in the bakery at Welfare Square. (Photo by Matt Reier.)

[photo] Above right: Bottles of spaghetti sauce from the cannery are among the goods available in the bishops’ storehouse.

[photo] Near right: A missionary at Welfare Square’s employment center helps a job seeker check possibilities listed on the computer.

[photo] Second right: A Deseret Industries sign greets visitors at the south entrance to Welfare Square. The cannery is at right, with grain storage silos in the background.

[photo] Far right, facing page: Volunteers put lids in place on bottles of fresh, hot spaghetti sauce. The conveyor system carries the bottles to a lid-tightening machine, then a cooling tunnel.

[photo] Above right: Canned pears stacked in the bishops’ storehouse at Welfare Square.

[photo] Center right: Checkout area in the newly remodeled Deseret Industries store.

[photo] Right: Freshly sliced blocks of cheese go into packages in the dairy plant. (Photo by Matt Reier.)