There have been a number of stories in the mainstream press this week about parishes and dioceses stepping up to offer food assistance during the COVID-19 emergency. A Google search for “Episcopal food pandemic” yielded over 800,000 hits. Here is a sampling of some of those news stories:
From the NY Times:
When the coronavirus upended ordinary life in New York, John Merz, an Episcopal priest who looks like a band manager of mid-1990s vintage, determined that more people needed to be fed — not from the trough of spiritual aphorism but from professional kitchens. He had an infrastructure for this. During the past three years, the organization he helped start, North Brooklyn Angels, has deployed a 37-foot truck painted turquoise — the Angelmobile — to dispense meals in neighborhoods where so many have been marginalized by the steady onslaught of the prosperous.
…“You see people donating pizza to hospitals over and over,” Father Merz remarked. “How much pizza does anybody really want? Who needs 3,000 granola bars?” Hospitals constantly dealing with triage don’t have the bandwidth to manage the random delivery of food at unscheduled hours. He and Mr. [Neil] Sheehan devised a plan to circumvent this kind of inefficiency, to feed Woodhull [Hospital]’s staff and also try to address the pandemic’s secondary crisis, the explosion of unemployment within the city’s restaurant industry.
From the Greenfield, MA Recorder:
As some community meals programs have been disrupted by restrictions on gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, some, like those of the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew, have been adapted and updated to fill in where others have been forced to shut down.
On Sunday, the church started a new free lunch program, which the Rev. Heather Blais, the church’s rector, explained is intended to fill in for a regular Sunday free lunch on the Greenfield Common, hosted by an organization called Cathedral in the Light, which has been canceled by the state’s ban on large public gatherings.
… To fit with the public health rules of the coronavirus crisis, the church’s new meal is packed in a paper bag and handed out by a volunteer from an eye-level window in the Whiteman Room that opens to the church’s parking lot. At the next window over, another volunteer gives out cups of coffee. The whole interaction takes less than a minute.
Parishioners at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne and St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Newtown Square are pulling together to help students and families at St. James School, the only Episcopal school in the city of Philadelphia.
With the support of the Episcopal community throughout the region, St. James School is feeding 250 families each day, including breakfast, hot lunch and groceries for dinner.
From Episcopal News Service:
In 2016, parishioners at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Martinsville, Indiana, built a tiny wooden pantry in a lighted alcove just outside the front door and hung out a sign saying, “Take what you need. Donate what you can.” And so the Little Free Pantry was born.
Four years later, the pantry is one of several feeding ministries affiliated with Diocese of Indianapolis churches that are still functioning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have encountered multiple people making withdrawals and seen the desperation in their faces and heard it in their voices,” Steve Speth, who runs the pantry, wrote in a recent letter to supporters.
Others food ministries fighting hunger in the diocese include The Storehouse Food Pantry, a sizable ecumenical ministry operating at the former site of St. John’s, Speedway; the Mid-North Food Pantry, an ecumenical venture housed in the outreach center at Trinity, Indianapolis; Sister Joanna’s Table at St. Paul’s in Evansville; and the virtual shelf-stocking work of parishioners at St. Matthew’s, Indianapolis.
These are just a few examples of the good news about how the Church is continuing to be the Church in the middle of this crisis. What’s your parish or diocese doing to help? Please share in the comments below.