The Food Issue

Kansas pinto bean plant helps the needy in the U.S. and abroad

Pappy’s Pantry pinto beans come from 21st Century Bean Processing in Sharon Springs, Kan..
Pappy’s Pantry pinto beans come from 21st Century Bean Processing in Sharon Springs, Kan.. The Kansas City Star

If you’ve ever needed food assistance, chances are you have received a bag of Pappy’s Pantry pinto beans. The speckled beans with a creamy white background come from 21st Century Bean Processing in Sharon Springs, Kan.

The plant, which is owned by 28 growers, packages an estimated 500,000 meals a day. (Figure a 1-pound bag feeds five.) The beans are purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which distributes them to food banks, including Harvesters, and feeding stations coast to coast.

Pinto beans are obviously an inexpensive protein source that’s high in fiber, but finding the freshest beans on the supermarket shelf can be a guessing game. And old beans take a lot longer to cook.

“The lighter the background, the fresher the bean,” says Alan Townsend, director of 21st Century. “As they age, they darken in color.”

Townsend, a fifth-generation Kansas grower whose son recently took over the family farm, grows over 1,000 irrigated acres of pinto beans. He takes great pride in fan letters sent from across the country, as well as the company’s humanitarian contributions following the earthquake in Haiti.

“We have a special little company. We’re doing it for the right reasons,” Townsend adds.

Pappy’s Pantry pinto beans and Townsend’s private-label J. Hawkens Bean Co. yellow field peas are available to retail customers at Paradise Locker Meats in Trimble, Mo.

Pappy’s Pantry: Available at Paradise Locker Meats, 405 W. Birch St., Trimble, Mo.

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