Midweek Manna Offers Nourishment for the Mind, Body, and Soul

Lakeside United Methodist Church and its Mi Casa ministry in Pine Bluff, AR recently received a $2,000 grant from 200K More Reasons to provide food and educational resources to both English and Spanish-speaking children and families.

Mi Casa’s objective is to serve, educate and advocate for its community and is a Christian ministry, that seeks to share the gospel by serving its community and members. According to Vanessa Hernandez-Valdez with Mi Casa, for children to grow to be the leaders of tomorrow, they must have access to food, educational resources, literacy enhancement and ample opportunity for growth. 

“During the summer of 2023 as well as the school year of 2023-2024, Lakeside United Methodist Church and Mi Casa plan to provide mobile food distribution to struggling Hispanic families, extend our Midweek Manna activities to an afterschool program on Wednesdays, and provide reading materials for each child to help break a repeating cycle of poverty through education and nutrition,” she said. “In Jefferson County, 28.9 percent of all children ages 18 and under currently live with food insecurity. Of these same children, only 4.9 percent are above the federal poverty level, which means 24 percent of all children living in our county fall under federal poverty levels.”

Currently, Jefferson County is ranked among the lowest healthy counties in the 0-25 percentile. Following right after food insecurity and poverty, Latinos and literacy are also ranked among the lower percentiles. 

“Our primary goal is always to serve, principally, the Hispanic community of Jefferson County in addition to the families in our Midweek Manna program,” Hernandez-Valdez said. “In serving these families with whom we have already connected with their children, ministry relationships have already begun and will now spread to the rest of the community through word of mouth. One of our goals is to provide opportunities for the children to further their education whether it be tutoring, building up their own personal libraries at home, or workshops focusing on ACT prep, college prep, FAFSA assistance, résumé building, basic computer skills, etc. We intend to increase the number of children we actively serve from 6-8 consistent students to 15 or more children who would be joining us on a weekly basis for tutoring.”

Hernandez-Valdez goes on to say that children who have the opportunity to better their education after high school can have careers, which pay them more than a job without college degrees or even high school diplomas. 

“When these children grow up to be adults, they are not only able to provide nutritious meals for their families but can educate them and assist their future children with pursuing higher education, unlike many of their parents can today,” Hernandez-Valdez said. “The children’s parents will be invited to sign up for a series of our English classes, a bible study, gardening classes, cooking classes, computer classes, and informational sessions. We hope that by providing the opportunity to learn that children will see the improvement in their parents and aspire to learn as much as their parents. We have witnessed how children react to learning when their parents are functioning in society even when they are illiterate; therefore, when the child loses interest at a young age, the parents are able to strongly encourage the child academically.”

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