by volunteering in hunger relief efforts in all 50 states
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Active Service and Prophetic Leadership
Churches have a vital role to play in ending hunger in America. In addition to our experiences in our home congregations, we sought insight by visiting Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington DC. Foundry is a large church (its congregation numbers around 1200) with a very strong commitment to mission programs. Part of Foundry’s "Statement of Call" includes these words: “We at Foundry are called by God to … transform the world through active service and prophetic leadership.” To find out more, we interviewed Jana Meyer, Minister of Missions at Foundry.
Jana comes to Foundry with extensive mission experience, including a childhood in Peru with parents in the Peace Corps, divinity school, work with homeless or abused women and men, and overseas mission work with a hospital in Mozambique. At Foundry, her role is to support the members of the congregation as they live out their calling to service and advocacy. About 350 members take an active part in mission work, from volunteering once for a few hours to serving 10 hours or more every week.
Foundry members serve in 20+ local mission programs. Focus areas come from the passions of those in the congregation and the needs present in the community. Perhaps the strongest focus area is homelessness. As Jana said, “There’s something about working in a church where people are sleeping on your steps at night…“ Foundry is part of WIN (Washington Interfaith Network), which is working hard to end homelessness in the city. They agree with the "Housing First" approach that housing is the need to address first when helping a person to self-sufficiency.
Foundry is also heavily involved with local hunger relief efforts. On the first and third Wednesdays of each month, they make approximately 1000 sandwiches to be distributed by Foundry’s Walk-In Mission and Day Labor Outreach mission, and by McKenna’s Wagon (part of Martha’s Table). They also cook meals every Saturday to help people living with HIV/AIDS, and they participate actively in other great DC programs such as SOME (So Others Might Eat) and Christ House.
We’re continually impressed at the hard work and giving spirit of people of faith who volunteer in so many ways to meet the immediate needs of those who are hungry. But, as Jana said, the economic situation is just doing terrible things to people. More and more people are hungry. Ultimately, people need jobs so they can buy food for themselves. Mobilizing the political will to correct this social injustice should be our focus.
All people deserve adequate and healthy food. Yet, even in the U.S., hunger is a serious problem. According to the USDA, at least 14.5% of Americans were food insecure during 2010. According to Feeding America, in some counties the rate is over 30%. Over 43 million Americans are on food assistance. Why?
In response to the rise in hunger, "Facing Hunger in America" seeks to understand the programs that are in place to alleviate hunger in the U.S. We want to learn what works best, where the gaps are, and how concerned people and organizations can make an effective difference.
We also hope to understand how government policy and the mainstream system of feeding Americans need to change to better prevent hunger and unhealthy eating.
Postings in this blog are a small taste of what we're finding along the way. Comments welcome!