Fighting food insecurity is a year-round effort embraced by many United Methodist churches. The Arkansas conference’s month-long collection endeavor, affectionately dubbed ‘Collectober,’ encourages churches to gather food and disaster kits to supply those in need and concludes with the Ingathering event in November. To nurture this month’s ministry, we recognize previous seasons of giving led by churches in our conference.
Summers are a particularly difficult time for kids facing food insecurity without the benefit of school breakfasts and lunches. To fill in these gaps and keep young people fed during the break, the small congregation of Concord United Methodist Church in Concord, Arkansas, stepped up to the plate.
Over ten weeks this summer, Concord UMC members assisted their local school district’s childcare center in feeding children from six weeks to twelve years. With the help of a $2,000 grant from 200,000 More Reasons, an initiative supporting feeding and literacy ministries, the church was able to provide a total of 300 meals as well as weekly book selections to send home with the kids in attendance. Meal bags were packed at the church, delivered to the center, and then distributed by the center’s staff each week.
At the conclusion of the program, additional food was delivered to the Child Care Center to be used for filling food backpacks as needed during the current school year. Therefore, not only were the goals met in accordance with their grant, but they were also able to address the additional needs of food-insecure children well past the summer months.
“We are a tiny church with an average weekly attendance of around 10-15, so it was a pretty big challenge to undertake a project of this nature,” said Karen Cooper, a church member.
Concord UMC may be tiny, but its efforts were mighty. Record keeping, purchasing, packing, and delivery of the backpacks were quite a load for the few members able to volunteer. Upon each delivery, they were thanked profusely and assured of their gratitude for any extra help. Near the end of the summer, staff at the center mentioned to volunteers that parents said the program had been a lifesaver for their family.
“In our minds, that alone made all the hard work worth every minute and every penny,” Cooper said.