Our congregations respond to hunger, as well. We have food pantries, soup kitchens, community gardens, homeless ministries, backpack programs, snacks for schools, sandwich ministries. We support local food distribution programs, and we support churchwide hunger appeals.
When the ELCA began in 1988, we made a decision to have an annual world hunger appeal. And we have done so every year since then. In this last year we raised over twenty million dollars across the ELCA. Some congregations have a monthly extra offering for world hunger. Some do a special appeal. Some rely on individual gifts. Some make a congregational offering. In my congregation, we went from paying little attention to the issue to being the Synod’s top giving congregation, simply by appointing an advocate who encouraged us once a month to be generous. It worked.
Our Synod has a World Hunger Coordinator, Pastor Jessie Obrecht of Fairfield. She is eager to work with congregations and individuals to find ways to increase their impact on world hunger. Our Synod is fortunate to have had a variety of hunger coordinators over the years, many of whom are still in our Synod, and still committed to world hunger. They include: Jan Martin, Mark Goetz, Patty Callaghan, Dorothy Borge. We are grateful to them, and to all who have advocated for hungry people.
Food producers know better than anyone else that it is a complicated process to get food from the farm or ranch to hungry people. In today’s complicated economy, it involves governments—trade agreements, agricultural policies. In the United States, the Farm Bill has enormous impact on producers, and enormous impact on hungry people.
Specifically, the Farm Bill now under consideration in Congress, is not only of great importance to farmers and ranchers, it affects the most important anti-hunger programs in our country, namely, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program.) SNAP, described as “our nation’s most effective anti-hunger program,” assists individuals and families. TEFAP helps programs that distribute food. Both are critical for addressing hunger in the US.
As Christians, we are committed to addressing hunger on many fronts—local feeding programs, the World Hunger Appeal, and advocacy. Right now Congress is negotiating the provisions of the Farm Bill, looking at both House and Senate versions. They need to hear from advocates of the poor, to support SNAP and TEFAP. I am going to make my voice heard. I hope you will, too.
Jessica Crist, Bishop