By Abby Pratt
It is not a foreign occurrence to be approached on the street by individuals who are hungry or to see them sitting on the side of the road with a sign asking for food. Many of us have experienced this whether it has been in the last month, week, or even while here in Dallas at the 2015 CBF General Assembly.
While the needs of these hungry individuals are very visible to us, hunger issues are much more expansive, complex, and at times difficult to see. In addition to numerical increase, the appearance of food insecure individuals and reasons for their need is shifting alongside our changing economy and evolving society.
In her workshop, Understanding Hunger: Resources and Strategies for You and Your Church, Alexis Weaver invited us to learn more about hunger in the United States and in our specific communities. Alexis is a research and development specialists at the Atlanta Community Food Bank which is one of Feeding America’s 200 Food Banks across the nation.
Who is Hungry and Why?
49 million Americans are not able to obtain the food they need on a daily basis. Since 2008 this number has drastically increased and is historically the highest our country has experienced. This number includes people of varying ethnicity, age, and geographic location. A large majority of food insecure people have jobs but are being forced to prioritize other expenses over the purchase of food. These expenses include utilities, medical bills, transportation, housing, and education. While our economy is currently experiencing growth within the job market, the amount of money individuals are making at these new jobs is still not enough to make ends meet.
Families facing food insecurity have become very resourceful by purchasing inexpensive/unhealthy food, borrowing money from friends and family, watering down and stretching the food they have, pawning personal items, and starting their own gardens. But why should they struggle alone?
What can Churches Do?
Churches and faith-based groups have endless possibilities to engage in their community and walk alongside hungry people. Depending on your location and local need, consider starting a food pantry, food Co-Op, or community garden within your community.
A first step in getting involved is to visit Feeding America’s website http://map.feedingamerica.org/ and spend time looking at the “Map the Meal Gap” map. Examine your state and county and see where the highest rates of food insecurity exists. Too often we do not realize the need that is present in our own neighborhoods.
In addition to this, find the nearest Feeding America Food Bank and see what local opportunities are already in place. Learn from them and seek to partner with and expand upon what is already in place. As you discern how to engage in feeding ministries, be creative and seek to empower and engage with those who are hungry (it’s not about you, it’s about them!).
Abby Pratt serves as the Associate Pastor of Youth and Mission at Central Baptist Church in Richmond, Va. Abby graduated from Wake Forest University School of Divinity in 2014 and was ordained by Peace Haven Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.