Hunger and Homelessness Sunday is this weekend

Presbyterian churches are encouraged to participate

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

In the past, Faith Des Peres Presbyterian Church in St. Louis has held a “Freeze Out” to raise awareness about homelessness. As part of the event, people sleep on the front lawn and share their experiences with the congregation. (Photo by Erica Abbett)

LOUISVILLE ­—  As the nation continues to grapple with the health and financial repercussions of COVID-19, Presbyterians are being encouraged to observe Hunger and Homelessness Sunday this weekend.

“Hunger and Homelessness Sunday has been in the Presbyterian Planning Calendar for a long time and it’s connected to a national week of focus on hunger and homelessness,” said Rebecca Barnes, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “For any of us following the call to feed the hungry and welcome the stranger and all of those pieces of Scripture, this would be a wonderful way to embody that.”

There are a number of ways to mark the day, from doing a Minute for Mission to sharing what the church is doing to address hunger and homelessness to highlighting the work of community agencies, Barnes said. Available resources include bulletin inserts and a children’s sermon and prayer.

On a regular basis, many churches and Hunger Action Congregations are doing work to feed their communities, from providing meals to needy families to filling backpacks with food for school children. Some also have homeless programs or work on issues related to affordable housing.

A bulletin insert features “some stories about the Congregation Based Community Organizing efforts that we’ve been honored to walk alongside,” Barnes said. A lot of those CBCOs “are related to affordable housing and trying to provide affordable housing trust funds in cities, trying to really think about solutions to homelessness and hunger.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Matthew 25 invitation calls on churches to actively engage in the world and work boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor.

The Rev. Rebecca Barnes

Hunger and Homelessness Sunday “would be a really good focus for any of the Matthew 25 congregations or presbyteries that are particularly interested in the focus on ending systemic poverty or dismantling structural racism because both of those are obviously intertwined with hunger and homelessness,” Barnes said.

Although November is often associated with an abundance of food as many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, food insecurity continues to be a real problem in this country.

Hunger and Homelessness Sunday is “a good time to pause and prepare ourselves to think about who we are as communities and what we believe all people should have access to,” Barnes said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there already were more than 35 million hungry people in the United States, including more than 10 million children, according to Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

This year, more than 50 million people, including 17 million children, in the United States may experience food insecurity as the pandemic continues to take a toll on health and finances, Feeding American has noted.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 1 in 4 adults have found it tough to pay their bills during the pandemic, a third have tapped into their savings or retirement funds to get by, and about 1 in 6 have borrowed money from friends or family or obtained food from a food bank.

“I think there are a lot of people who are a paycheck or two away from really having to make some hard decisions, whether it’s between needed medicines and food or whether it’s between housing and all the other bills you have,” Barnes said. “It’s not a distant reality for a lot of people.”

Looking for food relief activities that your congregation or faith group can participate in? Go here to download a pdf of ideas.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program is supported by your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing. It is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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