Over the years I have heard hundreds of times that our congregation cares deeply about food security. Our faith in action has made St. John’s known in the community as a church that works to feed the hungry.
Historically and currently, our time, treasure and talents support our deep conviction to feed the hungry and to love our neighbors. We were part of a consortium of churches in Wake Forest that helped Tri Area Ministries establish its headquarters on Holding Avenue many years ago. St. John’s EYC has packed Backpack Buddies for over a decade, we have housed the Northeast Backpack Buddies program and we still have an active group of women who are committed to packing and delivering these weekend meal bags to schools. This summer, you could find all ages picking hundreds of pounds of food for local meal programs and food banks and tending to two local community gardens. In addition, we are currently building our team and pledges for our 43rd CROP Walk, which raises funds for international hunger ministries and locally for Wake Forest Community Table, Tri Area Ministries and Hope House. St. John’s cares deeply about food security and considers this work an expression of our faith.
As you will see in the weekly newsletter and on the Outreach page of the website, there are many upcoming opportunities to become involved in food security work at St. John’s; therefore, I think it is worth exploring how this work can be life giving, loving and liberating for all who are involved. In his book Practical Justice, Kevin Blue challenges us to expand our understanding of food security work and warns of the dangers of transactional instead of relational service.
He broadens the lens of what food insecurity actually means beyond the old “teach a person to fish” story to consider that “there are some people to whom we need to give a fish, people we need to teach to fish and systemic challenges to fishing- such as expensive poles and polluted lakes.” Blue gives an extensive list of the systemic causes of food insecurity:
- shortages of subsidized housing
- the difference in the quality of education in poorer neighborhoods
- the history of bank and real estate agents engaging in redlining
- the difference in car insurance rates in neighborhoods with minorities
- the way the justice system privileges wealth and whiteness
- the exploitation of poorer communities with waste disposal sites
- rising costs of essentials compared to stagnant minimum wages
Blue warns us that by working for food security without exploring these systemic causes, we risk masking or ignoring the problem we are committed to alleviating. As we go out into the world, learning about these causes, advocating for systemic change, voting in ways that align with our commitment to food security and praying daily are all essential parts of loving and serving the Lord. In one of my favorite books on outreach ministry, Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers, Elizabeth Mae Magill beautifully summarizes how churches can approach this work. She says “the primary strength churches bring to food ministry is not their excess of food resources but the excess of Jesus’s love, care, and grace and our ability as church members to recognize that all of us need that love, care and grace regardless of how much food we have.” I look forward to seeing you out in the world loving and serving the Lord!