Local Churches Combat Hunger
Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 22:11
A recently released report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce reveals that the U.S. poverty rate has continually increased since the 2007 – the year the recession began. In 2010, 46.2 million people were in poverty; that's the largest number in the 52 years that poverty estimates have been published.
As people and families struggle with economic hardship, many faith-based programs work to ensure that, at the very least, those in need have something to eat.
In Northwest DC, the Hunger Ministry at National City Christian Church (NCCC) passes out over 200 bags of food once a week. Wednesdays from 10 in the morning until 1 p.m. they pass out two types of bags; one for those with access to cooking facilities, and one for those without.
"We do our best to make sure no one leaves empty-handed," said Deloris Ruddock, a volunteer food pantry coordinator at NCCC.
She and her small staff work tirelessly, collecting donations and arranging food purchases from the Capital Area Food Bank. Ruddock says people often turn to churches in times of emergency first. They feel they will find reliable assistance.
"It's probably the only place they feel they can go for help. They expect the people who say they believe in help and service to do so," Ruddock said.
According to a report from the hunger-relief charity Feeding America, 5.6 million households accessed emergency food from a food pantry at least once in 2010. More than one third of the client households in the study reported having to choose between food and other basic necessities like rent or medical care.
Taniesha Woods, Senior Research Associate at the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University, says families under severe economic pressure often only go to churches for help.
"The most disadvantaged families oftentimes don't go to formal settings to receive services, but they will go into a church. Churches can provide information and reach families and children who wouldn't know about (public) services otherwise," Woods said in the G. Jeffery MacDonald, Religion News Service.
In the battle to combat hunger, religious workers have been seeing the signs of growing desperation.
"There's definitely been a spike in the number of people who come for food over the last few years," said Suzanne Kramer, Program Coordinator at Sixth Presbyterian Church Food Closet.
Last year, Kramer says Sixth Presbyterian's Food Closet fed between 80 and 100 people every two weeks during their food distribution periods. There were a few times the pantry ran low on resources and had to "thin the bags out" to make sure everyone had food. The shoddy state of U.S. economy is the only thing to which Kramer can attribute the increase for a need of groceries.
"We've got a good cadre of volunteers," Kramers said. She says that without them, they wouldn't be able to accommodate the increasing number of people who depend on their pantry for food.
Even with the dedicated volunteers, meeting needs in hard times is still a difficult task. At Charlie's Place at Saint Margaret's Episcopal Church, Development Director Tom Goss says they supplement a third of the food when partner organizations can't afford to donate as much.
Goss says his organization served about 16,000 meals last year, and even though he's really excited about the work Charlie's Place is doing, there is a lot more work to be done to eradicate poverty and hunger in the United States.
"We definitely have the means," said Goss. "There's no reason for hunger in the U.S."