Volunteers escort the consumers down the aisle, working off a checklist as they place anything from pancake mix to toilet paper to spaghetti sauce into the shopping carts.
No money changes hands, because the consumers, by and large, have no jobs. It is the Mormon church’s version of a food pantry, where many of the packaged goods and even the frozen meat carry the church’s own private label, Deseret, and the operation is financed by tithing and periodic fasting by church members.
The facility, called a bishop’s storehouse, is a key part of a vast Mormon welfare system that is largely without parallel in the world of religion. And now, in yet another indication of the toll the recession has taken on the United States, usage of Mormon storehouses is up by an estimated 30 percent, according to church officials in Utah and Massachusetts.