It was both fun and inspirational to read the social media posts yesterday from United Methodists in Georgia who had committed to making sandwiches for hungry children across the state. The Georgia United Methodists partnered with major corporations and Action Ministries to provide 200,000 healthy lunches to children in communities across Georgia. According to John R. Moeller, Jr. of Action Ministries, 800,000 children qualify for free or reduced fee lunches when school is in session but don’t get the same nutrition over the summer. As a result, Action Ministries is working in 22 north Georgia communities feeding hungry kids five days a week.
A secondary fun goal in this Rethink Church event for United Methodists was an attempt to break the world record for the number of sandwiches made in one hour as verified by the Guinness Book of World Records. In a more serious vein, the church was also demonstrating that Christian faith has an active expression. As Sybil Davidson of The United Methodist Church said, this event was an effort of United Methodist Christians to get outside the walls of the church and meet the needs of the communities through acts of service.
The event brought media focus to an important need that is easily overlooked in the summertime. Mark Hellman of Action Ministries says that social workers tell Action Ministries some of these children return to school 15 t0 20 pounds under weight when school begins and he notes that this can affect their ability to learn. This is the underlying reason for the Smart Lunch, Smart Kids campaign conducted by Action Ministries with volunteers from Georgia churches.
Nationwide, Bread for the World, an ecumenical citizens action group, is calling attention to the on-going problem of hunger in the United States through Preaching to End Hunger workshops by the pastor emeritus of Riverside Church, The Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr. Dr. Forbes is preaching and leading homiletics workshops across the country to call attention to the problem and provide pastors with resources to address it from the pulpit.
Bread provides a fact sheet on the effects of budget sequestration on hunger and development programs funded by the U.S. government. The fact sheet makes clear that not only children but vulnerable seniors and others are at risk of hunger and related health problems due to Congress’s inaction to address the budget in a more careful and responsible way.
The efforts of Georgia United Methodists to both address the problem of child hunger and call attention to it through the Smart Lunch, Smart Kids partnership carries a message I hope legislators hear. Christian people don’t want to see children go hungry and they are doing what they can in different ways to change this reality. In Georgia on Saturday they took direct action. In meetings around the country they are focusing on how to talk about ending hunger with theological and homiletical training, and through Bread For the World advocacy they are attempting to influence public policy. Each method is needed and provides strong witness to the values of Christian faith.
And by the way, while it’s not yet official, the Georgia United Methodists believe they crushed the existing sandwich record by making over five times more sandwiches than the current record. Way to go!