In the past year, we have seen images of cars stretched for miles waiting for a single box of food. Some food bank directors report that people have lined up and slept overnight in their cars to guarantee they would receive food. In other cases, drivers run out of gas as they wait in food lines for hours. While increased demand overwhelms food banks, many churches provide hunger relief by ramping up their programs to serve their communities during this unprecedented time of need.
Hunger in America reached unprecedented levels during 2020, and will grow even more in 2021 by most predictions. According to a National Geographic study, an estimated one in six Americans, which is more than 50 million people, struggled to find a steady source of food in 2020.
Churches Step Up To Fight Hunger
“The middle class is really struggling because many of them are frontline and essential workers,” said Sr. Pastor Rev. Dr. William Curtis of Mount Ararat Baptist Church. “Many people have been laid off in Pittsburgh, and it’s particularly affected the African American community.”
Mount Ararat Baptist Church has a long history of providing food to its community members. The food ministry, called “Sharing & Caring,” is the church’s oldest and was created 114 years ago. On average, the church serves 10,000 meals a year to the hungry. However, 2020 and beyond, required a new plan to serve people in need.
“When we’re in seasons like we are experiencing now, it means ministry has to shift to focus on those areas where we can fill those needs. Right now, those are basic essential things like, how do we feed the hungry, and how do we make sure that folks are healthy,” said Dr. Curtis.
Serving the community’s elderly population is a cornerstone of the “Sharing & Caring” program. In a normal year, the church prepares, packages and delivers 700-800 hot meals a month to homebound senior citizens. Through the pandemic, Mount Ararat formed partnerships with organizations to provide and deliver the food, while the church’s culinary ministry continued to prepare it. Bags of groceries were also offered at the church for those who were able to pick them up.
Churches Find New, Innovative Ways To Serve
The holiday season required yet another pivot. In the past, Mount Ararat hosted sit-down Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for community members at the church. In 2020, to accommodate COVID restrictions, the church hosted drive through food distribution events instead. The church provided each family with everything to make a complete meal at home. Church volunteers loaded boxes containing turkey, chicken or ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, rolls, and cake mix into car trunks as they pulled into the church’s driveway. The church served 1,000 families with this system for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We do this every year, but given the nature of the pandemic, it just forced us to have to be creative about how we do it. And we wanted to make sure that families who are already suffering under the pandemic are not doubly suffering because of not having what they needed,” said Dr. Curtis. “You have to take care of your community.”
“Initially, we wanted to serve 150 people,” said Dr. Curtis about the Thanksgiving for distribution event. “Then when the calls started coming in, we knew the demand was going to be greater.” He credits online giving with the ability to serve more families. “People didn’t drop off donations. They were able to give through Givelify and because of the money that came in, we were able to giveaway more food.”
Mount Ararat’s commitment to hunger relief in the Pittsburgh community will continue into 2021 and beyond. The church kicked off the new year by providing 500 families and individuals with $25 grocery gift cards.
Join Mt. Ararat and more than 60,000 other organizations who use Givelify to grow their mission and make an impact on their communities. For organizations, Givelify is free to try, with no monthly fees or contracts. As a donor, you can download Givelify on the App Store or Google Play to help fight hunger and support other causes in less than a minute.