The Hunger Action Congregation helps to address community needs
November 5, 2023
In a Midwestern city where the cost of housing can affect residents’ ability to thrive, Westminster Presbyterian Church of Madison, Wisconsin, is helping residents to make ends meet through various efforts to feed people in the community.
In recent years, Westminster has helped to provide snacks and other food for students, assisted homeless shelters, helped fill local food pantry shelves and held forums on important issues.
Part of the motivation is that “we just recognize the incredible need among first, the low-income (population) and now, the needs are expanding to include higher-income people who are just having trouble affording housing,” said Ruling Elder Kathy Kamp, co-chair of the mission committee. “In Madison, housing costs are incredibly expensive, and so people need to get other kinds of assistance. Food (aid) is one of the ways that they can reduce their expenses so they can afford their housing.”
In addition to that, “we have supported homeless programs for as long as I think the church has been around, and I believe that our involvement with the shelter and our involvement with people who are moving out of the shelters really focused our attention on food because that was something we could provide to them to help them out.”
Westminster is an example of a Hunger Action Congregation, a designation from the Presbyterian Hunger Program for churches that “follow Christ’s example of feeding the hungry, caring for those in need and working toward justice,” according to PHP.
Such congregations are active in at least one of these areas: hunger alleviation, development assistance, hunger education, intentional and sustainable living, corporate and public policy witness, and worship. Those who are active in all six are called Certified Hunger Action Congregations.
Westminster has been an HAC for about five years, Kamp said.
“One of the things that we find interesting, actually, about doing the food service is that from year to year that needs change, and we have to adapt our programs,” Kamp said. “It forces you to keep up with the needs in the community and make sure that you’re meeting them in the most efficient way.”
For example, a weekend food program for students is evolving this year, “so that instead of the weekly (snack) bags in lockers, we’re going to be delivering boxes of food that include fruits and vegetables and other items,” Kamp said. “That will provide a week’s worth of food and those will be delivered to the students’ homes.”
The change is being made because “what we found is that it was difficult for the kids to get stuff home, and we really wanted to move to providing more healthy options, including the produce that people need.”
Access to healthy food and produce is an issue for various reasons, including distance. “Not everyone can get to Woodman’s (grocery),” Kamp noted. “Either they don’t have transportation or carrying everything home is difficult, so we definitely have tried to think hard about how to get those healthy foods to kids.”
The church, which is part of the John Knox Presbytery, increases its effectiveness by working in collaboration with other organizations in the community.
“We’re part of an adopt-a-school program, and so we work with some other businesses and community organizations, and we all work together to try and help the schools with snacks and school supplies and other things that they need.”
One of the church’s new efforts includes forming “some teams who are going to work in a local food pantry and this food pantry uses volunteers to help people shop in the food pantry and they also make prepared meals for people that they can pick up every day so that they can have a prepared dinner,” Kamp said. “Homeless people don’t always have access to cooking facilities, and we have a substantial number of people who are sort of doubled up and living in hotels and so they need the pre-prepared meals. This food pantry provides both, and we are putting together a team of people who will go once or twice a month to work at that pantry.”
For more information about Hunger Action Congregations, go here.
Darla Carter, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, November 5, 2023, the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Today’s Focus: Westminster Presbyterian Church, a Hunger Action Congregation
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
Lord, we know you have a special place in your heart for us. Please bless our efforts to guide and raise us up to serve you, through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
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