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Boston Globe: Empty larders find overflowing hearts in bishop's storehouses

The shelves of the warehouse look much like those at a small, well-stocked grocery, but there are no prices, there is no cash register and there are no employees.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 LDS 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.\"A lot of people are proud and ashamed they need help,'' said Gregory Hill, 39, of Springfield, Mass., who has been unemployed since being laid off as a DHL delivery driver last November, and who on a recent day drove the 45 minutes to pick up free supplies for his family of four. \"But nobody's hiring.''It was during the darkest days of the Great Depression that the Mormon church organized its novel system for providing for its neediest members: A vast network of ranches, factories, canneries, grain silos, trucks, thrift stores, employment centers and food distribution centers.