Food Shortages Spotlight the Way of Jesus during COVID-19
By David Neidert
Food insecurity is a distress in the United States. COVID-19 has ballooned this social issue. It has been reported, for the years 2016–2018, that over 11 percent or 14.3 million US households lacked “access at times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Children are particularly vulnerable to food needs. The US Department of Agriculture, a decade ago, determined 17 million children lived with “food insecurity” (not having enough food on a daily basis). The National School Lunch Program is significant in helping children have food for aiding their growth and learning. Thankfully, the Church of God from coast to coast is stepping forward in supplying this basic human need.
The First Church of God in Wauseon, Ohio, for example, joined other local churches in ministering to children as COVID-19 ended many school district programs for the year. Children were counting on lunch programs, but would receive no meals for the remainder of the year. “We decided we needed to do something,” says Pastor Mike Harmon. “Nearly ten people from our congregation started preparing bag lunches with sandwiches, cookies, and a drink. It was a Monday through Friday ‘grab-and-go’ in our parking lot.”
It soon became apparent that the church might serve the wider community after talking with school officials. “Student transportation to their schools became a problem. School officials began referring kids to congregations in their neighborhoods for lunches,” Harmon states.
The lunch offering slowly grew as senior adults, families, and even singles began stopping by for the grab-and-go. “We have been able to hand out over 800 sack lunches,” notes Harmon. “We have seen God build relationships, draw attention to himself, and offer encouragement to people through this parking-lot effort.” While unsure of what the future might entail, Harmon gives thanks to God for what is happening in their community through a sack lunch.
Schools in many locales are looking to church partners in helping provide breakfast and lunches to children, which are already paid for in school lunch programs. Madison Park Church of God in Anderson responded to such a request from Anderson Preparatory School, a private school, to help share information across the city and encourage volunteers. Casey Getzin, of Madison Park, shared the request with the church and some volunteers responded. “These volunteers are helping with packing meals and food delivery,” Getzin notes. “We are thankful to God that families in our community are getting breakfast and lunches during this time without cost to them.” Through Instagram, the church’s “Kingdom Moments” announced over 5,000 meals were prepared for these children.
Beth Wolff, lead pastor of Clarksburg Church of God in Maryland, is thankful for the unique church and community partnership they fostered last year. Today, a joint food pantry is offering nourishment for many caught by COVID-19. The “Clarksburg Free Little Pantry” is a true community collaboration. It resides on the church’s property, but is a “24/7 anonymous food pantry for helping those who struggle with food insecurity,” shares Wolff. “Our tagline is: ‘Give what you can, take what you need, leave what you don’t.’”
The pantry started when a local non-churched individual felt drawn to the Clarksburg church. “After meeting, we felt this was a great concept that our church could host with a location,” notes Wolff. What started as a small gesture has blossomed into six to eight cars a day dropping off food in addition to Amazon packages shipped directly to the church from those who believe in the program. Financial support, too, comes throughout the year.
Other Church of God congregations across the continent are also lending a hand in offering food to their communities. In Hutchinson, Kansas, First Church of God has experienced a doubling of the number of people using their food resource. They are also continuing to feed the homeless. Likewise, East Prairie First Church of God in Missouri hosts a drive-through mobile food bank at their site. These stories represent hundreds of congregations of the Movement—big and small—who are responding to life’s basic need for food.
Wolff captures why church involvement is essential regarding food insecurity. “It gives a witness to all that God is a God of generosity, a God of abundance in perceived scarcity, and a challenge that all people, no matter one’s life situation, can participate in kingdom work,” observes Wolff.
The Gospels record several occasions when large crowds were following Jesus. In their tarrying with him, they became hungry. The disciples saw the numbers and in concern for people, asked Jesus to send them away to local villages for food. Jesus, however, turned to the disciples and charged, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat” (Matt 14:16 NIV). The task seemed overwhelming with so few resources. Jesus, however, was the multiplier. The crowd’s hunger was satisfied when Jesus took so little and made it much.
The COVID-19 crisis brought massive unemployment and wage losses. Food insecurity is a mountainous obstacle facing millions. Church of God congregations—today’s disciples, people of the Way—see the barrier and are responding. The church is responding through food banks, pantries, and feeding programs, both big and small. Jesus’ words are achieved in the offering: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matt 25:35 NIV).
Note: Food statistics quoted are available through various Wikis and other resources.
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
David Neidert, who serves as a contributing writer and editor for Church of God Ministries. Born and raised in the Church of God, David Neidert worked at Anderson University for thirty-eight years and served the Historical Society of the Church of God as editor for one year. His published works include curriculum, numerous articles, and two books.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.