There is a sad reality to the economic downturn of the last five years. All you have to do to see it is go to local food pantries in your community.
The shelves are empty.
Food pantries all over the nation are struggling to keep up with demand, and budget cuts are taking a toll. Business and individual donations are not keeping up with the basic need to provide food for hungry people.
But there is something very simple that you can do to change this. While you’re at it, you can get to know your neighbors and have a pretty positive impact on your street, building, or neighborhood.
Last fall, several people at Augusta Heights Church began to host Community Food Drives to help with the shortfall at the church food pantry, Samaritan House. Since October, over 5000 cans of food have been collected, not to mention some really positive relationship-building in the process.
It’s a pretty good bet that, no matter where you are, there is a food pantry near you that has empty shelves. Or that is cutting back on hours because they don’t have enough food to stay open.
We can’t always do what we would like to do to “cure” poverty and help people. But the least we can do is provide some canned goods to make sure children and families do not go hungry. Start with what you can do, and then we’ll figure out the next step.
Here’s how you can get started and get others involved in collecting canned goods on your street, in your building, in your neighborhood (and yes, everyone can do this):
1. Check with your community association, landlord, building manager, etc.: Let’s make sure we’re not violating community rules by doing this, shall we? Make sure proper permission has been obtained before moving forward.
2. Contact the neighbors: Let those around you know what’s happening, and let them know what the collection points are. You could have a designated porch or door where people can drop off canned goods. Also, it is suggested that you do a Saturday pick-up throughout the month where people can leave goods at their own door to be collected.
3. Connect with a local Food Pantry: Find out what they need the most. Usually high protein items (TUNA, peanut butter, pintos, black beans) are a priority. Also, more expensive items that children will eat are needed (nutritious cereal for example).
4. Signs and Flyers: If you are in the Greenville area, contact Bill Turner at SignSource (864-289-0500) and he will help you with yard signs and flyers. Here is a sample:
If you live in some other part of the country, you can do flyers on the computer or have another local company make them if you choose to go that route.
Also, do not forget to use SOCIAL MEDIA! Spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. This will not only help your drive, but might inspire other neighborhoods to do the same.
5. Start the collection! Get as many people as possible involved. Maybe someone can collect on Saturday, someone can help to sort, etc. Make it a community event and be sure to let people know why you are doing this—because Christ compels us to take action rather than looking the other way!
6. Consider a “Blessing of the Food”: If the community is agreeable, you can close out the drive with a blessing on the final day. If possible, drive the food to the local pantry that day.
I would also suggest that you get as many children and young people as possible involved in this effort. It’s a great life lesson for them that we don’t just say the name Jesus, but LIVE Jesus. They will bring a TON of enthusiasm to the effort.
Spread this idea to your neighbors, your church, your school, or anywhere else that you can. And let the collecting begin!