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History of Operation Feed

Operation Feed was started in 1989 to provide bare-subsistence food packages to poor Mexican people in the village of San Juan Cosala who desperately needed assistance. This program was given birth by a Mexican couple living in San Juan Cosala when they began feeding six very poor families.  Willy and Millie Peniche continued supplying the families with food for the next six years, up until the 1994-1995 peso devaluation.  


Hit hard by the devaluation and realizing they could no longer carry the burden of feeding the families alone, they went to their neighbors, Earl and Loretta Smithburg and Jim and Anne Scott, for help.   "We took one look into the need of the families that the Peniches were feeding, and knew that something would have to be done to prevent starvation.  We went to our friends and developed a program we thought would work," said Earl Smithburg.  The premise of the program was to secure monthly pledges from the people they approached, with every peso going for food.  An accurate bookkeeping system has been in place since the beginning of the program and every transaction has been recorded.  


For 24 years only one delivery was missed; this was in 2007  when the great storm/waterspout sent mud down the mountain into San Juan Cosala, closing the roads.  In late 2009, when Earl Smithburg & Jim Scott both developed serious health issues and their wives, Loretta and Anne, had their hands full taking care of their loved ones, Arnie and Rosie Mogseth assumed leadership of the program to save it from being abandoned.  Arnie and Rosie soon enlisted an “angel” named Agustin Vazquez.


Agustin is the owner and operator of Viva Mexico Restaurant in San Juan Cosala.  His community leadership and compassion were highlighted when he fed most everyone in the Village during the waterspout that devastated San Juan Cosala.  Agustin graciously agreed to handle the time-consuming work of ordering, storing, sacking, and delivering the food, with the help of volunteers.  Bernie and Penny St. Louis volunteered (in 2011)  the use of their building (called the St. Louis Building) which is adjacent to Viva Mexico Restaurant, as a place to store the food and hand out the despensas (food packages).  This greatly helped as it used to take two hours to deliver the food; now the people come to receive their weekly despensas. Those people too ill or infirm to make the trip receive home deliveries.


The program requires a good deal of work and over the years many people have served as volunteers.  We currently have more than 30 volunteers working in the despensa program.  Some of them work to repackage the rice and beans; some pack up the despensas; and others use their own vehicles and serve as delivery drivers to deliver the food despensas to the disabled.  


Old Begging Woman
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