Monday, August 1, 2016

Building community at the food pantry

As a Christian, I highly recommend "Take This Bread" by Sara Miles for those working on food ministry projects.  The author was raised an atheist and experienced a conversion when she walked into an Episcopal Church one day.  At the church, she founded a food pantry, housed right in the sanctuary around the altar, and practiced the "client choice" model.

One of the things she writes about is the community that was created around their food pantry, as most of the volunteers ended up being clients of the pantry.  She saw this ragtag group formed into a community around the need for food, but more important, around the need for human connection.

She expresses it so much better than I, but I came away more convinced than ever that the only way we will solve the problem of hunger is by building community, bringing together those who need help and those who can help in meaningful relationships.

Food for the body can draw people into a food pantry or soup kitchen, but the food for the soul created by being part of something larger than themselves is what keeps them, and in some cases, changes them for the better.  In the North Country, our free will dinners do this well - they don't call themselves soup kitchens and they welcome all to be part of the community.

I highly recommend this book to any Christians struggling with what the call to "feed my sheep" really means.