Lifelong Learning

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

There are a lot of reasons to continue learning at all ages, including improving your self-confidence and keeping your brain healthy. But in your job as a staff member or volunteer, learning has more practical benefits. This week’s timely topic is starting a Hunger Relief Program:

Hunger and food insecurity are formidable problems in the United States—and the need for those committed to feed the hungry and food insecure is equally as great.

Leaving painful footprints on communities and people everywhere, hunger and food insecurity extend across every sector and demographic of our population. Hunger can impair mental and physical health, significantly lower school or work performance, lead to depression and anxiety, and strain families who may already be suffering from life’s challenges. Because the hungry often only have access to low-nutrient, high-fat foods, they frequently suffer from higher rates of diet-related illnesses such as diabetes.

Reducing hunger can generate a positive effect across communities, while bringing strength and hope to those in need. Church food assistance programs play a significant role in this fight against hunger, while also providing comfort and support to those they serve.

There is no single model for successful food assistance programs, and they can thrive in many different settings. Some operate in facilities built solely for food assistance purposes and are managed by a paid staff. Some have one, but not the other. Some programs are launched by two or three members of a church or congregation who have access to a single food storage cabinet and a refrigerator (or not) in the worship facility basement.

When starting a hunger relief program, research and planning are extremely important in order to create a sustainable project. As you begin to explore ideas and possibilities, your local food bank can be an excellent resource for information. If you are not aware of your local food bank, Feeding America can provide this information.

Questions to consider for the program include:

  • What is the need in your community? Explore hunger relief services that currently exist and determine the level of assistance being provided by other organizations. Is there a gap in service your organization would like to fill?
  • What are federal, state, or municipal requirements, such as fire or building codes, food handling and safety guidelines, or other regulations you must comply with to establish the program?
  • Who will staff the food ministry initiative? Though commitment and reliability are essential, the initial group of volunteers does not need to be large. Share the program’s mission with church members, explain why the program is important, and make a call for volunteers.
  • What is the source of preliminary funding, and how will you support ongoing operational costs?
  • What is the source of your initial “bank” of food? Before the program opens, you will want to have acquired a bank of food to distribute, along with food sources to supply the program’s ongoing needs.
  • What types of food will you provide and where will it be stored? Even if refrigerator and/or freezer space is available, you may want to start by distributing non-perishable food.

This information has been excerpted from the CongregationU online course “Operating Hunger Relief Programs.” This two-module, one-hour course can be purchased for just $16 per learner.