Union Pacific Celebrates 150 Years, Hosts Food Drive

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SPARKS, NV - At the Sparks rail yard, there's a nearly empty box car sitting on a siding.

By Friday night, Union Pacific employees and the Food Bank of Northern Nevada are going to try to fill it with as much as 40 tons of food.

The goal is ambitious but both the railroad and the food bank are used to challenges.

Though the railroad is less visible since completion of the train trench through downtown Reno, it's hard to imagine what Reno or Sparks would be without it.

The transcontinental railway has been a part of local history from the beginning. It's hardly too much to say that it gave birth to both communities.
So, this month as Union Pacific looks back on 150 years of that history, its local employees looked for a way to address a continuing local need.

The Food Bank's mission of feeding the hungry fit the bill and so did the timing.

"The food we gathered during the holiday season used to last us a lot longer," says Jocelyn Lantrip of the Food Bank. "I used to go right into the spring. That doesn't happen any more. Most of its gone by February. So we're starting to look for other creative ways to gather food for the hungry."

What's more creative than filling a box car?

"It's an Earth Day project as well as the 150th anniversary," says Union Pacific's Director of Terminal Operations Ben Ritter. "We tied it all together to do a three day food drive here on the Union Pacific property."

Filling the box car would go a long way toward meeting that need.

The weather wasn't helping the launch Wednesday but the drive will continue from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day through Friday at the rail yard at One Pyramid Way in Sparks.

Ritter says the railroad plans to make it an annual event.