Childhood hunger becomes three-year focus of Arkansas UMs

By Amy Forbus Editor Among the resolutions approved at the 2014 Annual Conference on June 22 was one that should have a lasting impact on the people of Arkansas. With the approval Resolution 4, the Extended Cabinet received the go-ahead for a three-year initiative to address childhood hunger in Arkansas. Recognizing that many United Methodist churches are already deeply involved in feeding the hungry in their communities, they now hope to extend that involvement to every UMC in the Arkansas Conference, for both immediate hunger relief and long-term comprehensive efforts. An excerpt from the resolution provides some details: “The initiative would utilize current partnerships and develop new partnerships in order to: a) develop baseline statistics; b) develop measurable outcomes for the initiative (i.e., reduce childhood hunger by X percent; increase UMC local church involvement in hunger relief efforts by X percent); c) assessment of and dissemination of current local church hunger relief involvement; d) provide an online resource clearinghouse for information sharing, ideas, stories of success and transformation through the Network for Discipleship and Mission; e) provide online, print and in-person resources to local church that provide the opportunity to understand the issues surrounding childhood hunger, the Wesleyan understanding of works of mercy, how we respond as disciples of Christ, and engage the entire Conference in a fund-raising effort to help end childhood hunger in Arkansas.” During discussion, the Rev. Ann Ferris of Corning UMC emphasized that poverty is not the only root cause of hunger; some parents have addictions that lead to their children not being fed. “We see a lot of hungry kids in Corning, and it’s not just because of money,” she said. The Rev. Carl Palmer of Central UMC Fayetteville and a state representative for Celebrate Recovery, said he would be glad to work with any churches who might wish to use Celebrate Recovery as a resource to help tackle situations where addiction problems in families contribute to child hunger. The Revs. Stephen Copley and Martha Taylor, co-chairs of the Conference Hunger Task Force, believe churches of the Arkansas Conference have made significant headway on this effort, and that the three-year focus will help transform lives, communities and the world, in keeping with the stated trajectory of the Conference. “So many United Methodists are already working to live out Matthew 25 by serving those in need,” Taylor said. “We believe with a coordinated effort, we can multiply the good we’re doing and bring about some long-term change.” The task force is working with the Arkansas Foodbank, Arkansas Rice Depot and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance to develop programs that provide ways for local churches to connect with those who need help. To learn how you can report your church’s existing missions to the initiative and receive guidance in starting something new, look for information in future issues of the Arkansas United Methodist, and at www.arumc.org.