By Paige K Slighter
Why the party hats, you ask? At the end of March, Woodland will celebrate one year of running the food shelf in our building when Merrick Community Services realized they wouldn’t have the capacity during COVID. After crunching the numbers, our figures show that we’ve served roughly 64,960 meals to families facing food scarcity. Troy, a Woodland staff member, said, “As I look back on this year and the impact we’ve made, it’s crazy to think about what might have happened if we had not stepped in to help.” Another staff member, Gary, said, “I like to think of it as spreading the gospel with every box we give out. Every person that receives food is an answer to prayer. What an honor it is to serve our community.”
What exactly do our meals look like?
Since we’re working with Second Harvest Heartland, there’s definitely a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables to go around. They believe “food is medicine,” and their goal is to make every bite count by providing balanced meals with positive health outcomes.
In each box, you’ll find a week’s worth of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. It’s also no secret we like to include some treats. Second Harvest partners with the community to “rescue” food that would otherwise go to waste, including pastries, cookies, cupcakes, pies and basically anything that could cure a sweet tooth. We don’t go crazy with the desserts, but we do want to bless families with some sugar to celebrate special occasions. Laurie, another Woodland staff member, loves finding out when families have birthdays so she can give them a fancy cake. She said, “It’s awesome to see their faces light up when they realize someone cared.”
Who are we serving?
Laurie was taking down names for curbside delivery, when an older gentleman said to her, “It’s my first time here and my cupboards are bare.” This made Laurie wonder, “How many of us are a paycheck away from empty pantries?” The number of struggling households we help has gradually increased since last March. We started off with 50 a week and now we’re serving 120. These families are part of our community. They are our neighbors, friends and relatives. They are working parents, children and senior citizens.
What are the benefits of a good meal?
It’s no surprise that “food changes everything.” Second Harvest says, “No one can grow, maintain good health or reach their full potential if they are hungry.” Families and individuals facing food insecurity today are having to make some tough choices. Feeding America paints the reality for us: “Imagine that you had just enough money to buy food for the week, with nothing left over to pay your utility bills or buy bus fare to get to work.” The anxiety these families face just to survive is crippling. That’s why food is such a powerful resource.
Food is fuel for growing bodies and brains. Second Harvest says, “Food is fundamental for learning in the Minneapolis Public Schools, where more than 60 percent of all kids are on free and reduced lunch, and many also eat breakfast at school. Once school’s out for the summer, these kids don’t have access to their usual meals and worry about when they’ll eat again.” According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 68 percent of students in the St. Paul School District are on free and reduced lunch. For many, district leaders say, this is their only source of food. When we provide children with healthy meals, we’re setting them up for success.
Food improves our quality of life in general. The University of Minnesota notes that food can have a huge impact on our daily decision-making and our future. In an online article, they say, “The food we eat gives our bodies the information and materials they need to function properly. If we don’t get the right information, our metabolic processes suffer and our health declines.”
Let’s praise God together!
At Woodland, we want to do everything we can to care for those in need. When tummies are taken care of, there’s potential for so much more. We pray these meals will continue to launch families and individuals far beyond what they could even dream of.
We hope you’ll continue to join us in praise as we celebrate all that God has done over the last year. It hasn’t always been easy, but we are grateful for the opportunity to serve and continue this life-giving ministry. We can’t say it enough: thank you for your support!