First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth hosts a camp on the experiences of hunger
by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — It’s one thing to see or read about the struggles of people living in poverty, stretching every nickel or dime. It’s another to get a true sense of what the daily struggle is like. The First Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth, Texas will be giving young people a small dose of what many low-income residents in their community deal with when it hosts a camp later this month for students in fourth through eighth grades.
“I’m so excited about it. This will be the third year that we’ve done this as a camp and the kids love it,” said the Rev. Robyn Michalove, associate pastor of mission and family. “We have to cap attendance at 40 children and we always have a waiting list.”
Participants learn what it is like to shop, buy and prepare food on a fixed income, as well as the headaches of getting to and from the store.
“The kids ride the city bus from our downtown campus to our outreach center. On the city bus, it literally takes one hour with a transfer and that includes standing in line and waiting in the Texas heat,” said Michalove. “We pick them up on the church bus and transport them back and it only takes seven minutes.”
Michalove says it gives participants a sense of what people living on a limited income must deal with on a daily basis.
“You don’t have to preach a sermon, you don’t have to teach a lesson, they get it and they see the people that come to our outreach programs, carrying their groceries on the same city bus that they’re on,” she said.
The young people will also learn about nutrition from a food service coordinator who will talk about healthy eating. The participants will also take part in a cost analysis to learn how expensive food is.
“They’ll have a budget and will then have to walk, not ride, to the nearest grocery store and have to buy enough groceries on a budget and come back and prepare a meal. It’s really hands on,” said Michalove. “They’ll work at the food bank, our food pantry and learn about hunger. They’ll also learn how to prepare healthy meals. Kids love it.”
While the church is connected to global hunger and poverty concerns as well, through their support of and connection to Cindy Corell, a Joining Hands mission co-worker, Michalove says this particular camp shows young people how hunger impacts people in their own town, which is an important realization for them—that there are hungry people in their own community.
“They are energized by serving and it really activates faith in children,” she said. “It’s the hands-on work.”
First Presbyterian Church is a Hunger Action Congregation, recognized by the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP) for the work it does to help people within its community. For the past 20 years, the church has operated a food pantry at a separate location. It includes a sack lunch ministry and groceries. Michalove says they see approximately 1,200 people a month.
Rebecca Barnes, coordinator for PHP, says, “Faith communities have a clear call to attend to those who are facing hunger and poverty. PHP celebrates churches like First Presbyterian, who do important hunger alleviation and hunger education in their own communities. While we cannot fully comprehend what it is like to live in daily struggle to put food on the table, getting a glimpse of those challenges—like at this camp—is a wonderful way to begin cultivating compassion, curiosity, and a heart to combat systemic issues of hunger and poverty. We know that we’re called to feed those who are hungry, but also to think about issues of underlying issues such as child nutrition, employment, housing, and more. First Presbyterian is working on many levels to address hunger.”
In addition, a New Worshiping Community utilizes the space and serves a meal to more than 100 people who are either housing insecure or homeless.
“We also work with two elementary schools that are 89-92 percent on a free or reduced lunch program,” said Michalove. “We offer a program where the kids take home enough food for the weekend in a discreet backpack. These are neighboring schools near our community outreach center.”
The church also provides a “formula and diapers ministry” because of the high cost for single parents and grandparents who are raising children.
“We are also intentional about education and awareness around race, class and poverty,” she said. “The congregation loves learning about the greater systemic issues of poverty and are energized by it.”
First Presbyterian is also a strong supporter of mission co-worker Cindy Corell’s work with Joining Hands, a program of PHP that works to improve policies or corporate practices that impact fundamental rights to water, food, land and other natural resources. Based out of Haiti, Corell accompanies Haitian communities as they come together to challenge systems that generate hunger, poverty and injustice. “We work with her and have attended some of the conferences she’s involved with in Haiti. She will be visiting us later this fall [for the 2018 International Peacemaker conference],” said Michalove.
PHP recognizes churches around the country that are committed to alleviating hunger and its causes. Click here if you are interested in learning more about becoming a Hunger Action Congregation.
Click here if your church would like to learn more about Joining Hands.
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