Funding will help churches and community groups serve vulnerable populations
September 17, 2020
Recognizing a rapid increase in demand for food assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program has announced $113,000 in grants to help churches and community groups weather the coronavirus storm and build capacity to address hunger.
“Typically, our grants are a little bit more toward the root causes of hunger,” said the Rev. Rebecca Barnes, PHP’s coordinator.
However, “we felt like in this time it was very clear that we needed to do some stopgap measures of feeding people right now” who are “increasingly hungry because of unemployment and lack of school meals and (to help) people who couldn’t get the CARES relief (stimulus checks) because of their immigration status.”
The grants, which are being distributed in states throughout the United States and in Puerto Rico, will be used for “exciting and amazing” work by PHP partners and churches, said Andrew Kang Bartlett, PHP’s Associate for Hunger Concerns.
The gifts include 29 Congregational Food Emergency Grants, totaling $28,000, in 15 synods of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); $10,000 in Congregational Crisis Resiliency Grants awarded to two recipients; and $75,000 in Partner Emergency Needs Grants to 15 PHP partners addressing a spike in demand for their services due to the coronavirus crisis.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, so many families are food vulnerable at this stage,” said Bruce Kelsh, who chairs the Earth and Social Justice Committee at First Presbyterian Church of Cottage Grove near Eugene, Oregon. “There’s a very high need.”
The church, which is in the Presbytery of the Cascades, will receive a Crisis Resiliency Grant to help reestablish a community garden behind a local food bank. The project will provide fresh produce for low-income families and encourage people to consume healthy diets.
The grant is “coming at exactly the right time for planting,” Kelsh said. “The weather has been 10 degrees higher than our normal temperatures, so things will be really taking off this year and we can start growing as soon as we can.”
Also, “we’ve got people that are master canners,” he said. “They’ll teach people how to preserve their foods so it can last throughout the year. We can offer some classes as well.”
United Workers Association in Baltimore is also providing some direct food assistance during the pandemic and is also working on other issues to help groups that are vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis. The recipient of an Emergency Needs Grant has been advocating for safe housing for the homeless and distributing face masks.
“It’s still really surprising how little protections people are afforded that are without economic need,” said Todd Cherkis, a leadership organizer for the association, which is located in the Presbytery of Baltimore.
The association’s areas of expertise include tenant and essential worker advocacy.
On the food front, it’s helping to provide groceries and other items, such as cleaning products, for seniors and other people, such as families of workers in low-wage service jobs.
Farther south in Huntsville, Alabama, Faith Presbyterian Church is grateful to be receiving an emergency grant to help fulfill its longstanding mission to address food insecurity in that area, where many service workers have lost jobs or had their work hours reduced.
“We are heavily involved in our community, in our region and in the world,” Mission Coordinator Krista Lovell said. “Our motto is ‘Worship Centered and Mission Focused,’ and it is a part of our DNA and who we are as disciples of Christ to care for those around us.”
Along with delivering food boxes to seniors as it does on a regular basis, Faith Presbyterian Church, part of North Alabama Presbytery, has been distributing emergency food bags to help the families of children who are out of school due to the pandemic. Recently, the church served 36 families, representing 144 people, during a drive-through food pickup.
Church volunteers also have been providing snack packs to First Stop, an organization that works to get people experiencing homelessness off the street.
Such mission work is what discipleship is all about, Lovell said.
“It’s not just about knowing what the Bible story is,” she said. “It’s doing something with it.”
Darla Carter, Communications Associate, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Hunger Program
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray:
Holy God, you call us from every time and place to follow you. Give us the courage to go where you lead us and to ask daily. “What can I add to the body of Christ?” Help us to hear your call and respond faithfully so that we may each grow in our relationship with you. Amen.