Joplin, MO—When devastating tornados hit Joplin, MO in May, the nation froze in its tracks as it heard news of 150+ deaths. But one retailer that did not stand still was Suzanne Charron, owner of Suzanne’s Natural Foods of Joplin, who mobilized the community to help hundreds of its displaced community members.
Days after she and her family hunkered down in a closet while part of her home was damaged by the tornado, she saw that her employees were all accounted for and decided to do her part to help those less fortunate. A volunteer group called the store looking for food donations for vegetarian relief workers. “We said, ‘Just send them over here and we’ll make them food,’” stated Charron.
Since then, Suzanne’s Natural Foods chefs (led by Beverly Wardlaw) have been whipping up 50-75 free Green Lunches of healthy foods daily, Mondays through Fridays, for relief workers and neighbors who lost their homes. And according to Charron, the food is “to die for,” with themed lunches, fresh homemade bread daily, fruit salad, greens from the store’s organic garden, beans/rice and more. Wardlaw and the other chefs make everything from homemade salsa to gazpacho to fresh basil pesto.
“When you see the devastation here…being on the relief end of this has helped all of us cope and it’s helped us feel better about why we were left here. Why is my store still standing, when thousands of people lost their jobs and businesses in this tornado? Because we’re supposed to help,” stated Charron.
Monetary donations and supplies were collected from good Samaritans and industry companies like Carlson Laboratories pitched in with aid (in their case, 200 bottles of fish oil). Also offering donations were Reliance Private Label Supplements (donating 2,000 bottles of supplements), Ecover (giving pallets of cleaning supplies), Rescue Remedy from Nelson Bach and more. “We have wonderful things to give to people when they come in. It’s not leftovers…they’re items that can help them with what they’re dealing with,” says Charron.
Charron says her store is in it for the long haul, and will continue offering free meals as long as there’s a need. “I can see feeding victims and volunteers for a year, at least,” she says. Companies that wish to donate product to the lunch program can email Suzanne@suzannes.com or call Jesse at (417)781-0909.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, August 2011