Ingathering feeds the hungry, enables response to disasters

Volunteers break down the sides of a tall container of sweet potatoes so they can continue working quickly to get the job done.

Volunteers break down the sides of a tall container of sweet potatoes so they can continue working quickly to get the job done.

LITTLE ROCK—How long does it take to get 20 tons of sweet potatoes packaged into boxes small enough for area food pantries to manage?

With a few hundred United Methodists involved in the process, only about 90 minutes.

Members of local churches from across the state converged on the Arkansas Foodbank Nov. 19, 2016, for Ingathering, the annual day of service that benefits hungry Arkansans as well as those affected by disasters around the world. In addition to taking on a mountain of sweet potatoes from the Society of St. Andrew, they labeled canned goods for food pantry distribution; packaged eight tons of dried pinto beans by the pound; learned about nutrition and making the most of a dollar through Cooking Matters live demonstrations; and sorted disaster relief supplies onto forklift pallets to be taken to the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana—and from there, distributed worldwide whenever disaster strikes.

By mid-morning, the parking lot near the loading dock was filled with disaster response supplies bound for UMCOR’s Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana.

By mid-morning, the parking lot near the loading dock was filled with disaster response supplies bound for UMCOR’s Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana.

To begin the day, the Arkansas Conference presented the Foodbank with a check for $3,000 to help them further their mission. The Foodbank is among the partners in 200,000 Reasons to Fight Childhood Hunger, the Arkansas Conference initiative to reduce food insecurity in Arkansas, particularly its effect on approximately 200,000 children within the state’s borders. Volunteers kept the Foodbank’s facility buzzing with activity all morning, singing choruses of “This Is the Day that the Lord Has Made” as they moved from the gathering area to their work stations.

Mary Williams of Mission UMC Fort Smith serves as the Northwest District secretary for the Conference Board of Global Ministries, and though she had heard about Ingathering for years, this was her first time to experience it on-site. She enjoyed helping with the process of boxing sweet potatoes, and before she left the Foodbank, she already had begun thinking about next year’s Ingathering.

United Methodists work in the clean packing room at the Arkansas Foodbank to prepare pinto beans for distribution at area food pantries. AUM PHOTOS BY AMY FORBUS

United Methodists work in the clean packing room at the Arkansas Foodbank to prepare pinto beans for distribution at area food pantries.
AUM PHOTOS BY AMY FORBUS

“I look forward to it, I really do,” she said. “It’s exciting! I’m impressed.”


For more photos of Ingathering 2016, visit the Arkansas Conference Facebook page.