Churches are often a source of food for those facing food insecurity. Many have in-house food pantries, or partner with community food kitchens and other organizations, to provide meals for those in need. But the Covid-19 lock-down has made it unsafe for volunteers to gather and welcome dozens, even hundreds, of people into their spaces to collect food or to share meals.
This has led to changes in food ministries across the Southern New England Conference. Many have converted to drive-by collections, offering meals or bags of groceries to recipients who drive up to a location and receive their food through the window. Some churches have reported using similar methods for collecting donated items. Below are some brief illustrations of the specific changes a few churches have made in their food ministries. (Some churches are also collecting and providing food for the first time during this pandemic. Read this Spotlight article on one such church, Smith Mills Christian Congregational Church in N. Dartmouth, MA.)
|Watch this video to see the Bloomfield and Woodstock church programs in action.|
A weekly hot meal program serving an average 100 meals per week has changed to a take-out with two components. Those who can come to the church receive meals by drive through or walk up, keeping physical distance between volunteers and recipients. A second component packages meals for delivery to distribution spots around the town. Bloomfield meals have increase to 200 per week during this lock-down period.
Bloomfield also ran a school food program in which they filled roller bags with 10-12 meals intended to get low income families through the weekend. The program recognized a gap in the food supply for families whose children received two meals a day at school but nothing on the weekends. Since the virus disruption began, the volunteers have been filling single-use bags and taking them to the social services building. Families can pick up the meals on Fridays. The church reported filling 100 of those begs in a single week recently.
Wilbraham United Church (Wilbraham, MA)
Wilbraham United Church held a unique drive-by food drive to benefit the Community Survival Center in Springfield. Wilbraham residents were able to maintain their social distance and help their Springfield neighbors by passing food through their car windows to protected volunteers.
First Congregational Church of Woodstock (Woodstock, CT) At Woodstock First, volunteers now serve meals from a pop-up tent in the church driveway. Cooks from Woodstock First, East Woodstock Congregational Church, South Woodstock Baptist Church, Christ Church Episcopal of Pomfret, and the Congregational Church of Pomfret rotate weeks preparing hot meals, then package them in containers and place them in an extra-large cooler. Volunteers distribute meals from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM. As guests pull up in their cars, volunteers hand them their meals through their car windows along with loaves of bread and bags of food stuffs (jars of peanut butter, cans of soup, granola bars, juice boxes, bottles of water, etc.).
On March 16th, their first drive-thru Monday, the church served 53 meals along with care packages of food items from the CT Food Bank, donated baked goods and bottled water. On March 23rd that number increased to 72. They are now serving over 100 meals. Many of these folks had never been seen before at the community kitchen. Some recipients included several carloads of families.
The Congregational Church of New Fairfield (New Fairfield, CT)
In response to the Covid-19 epidemic, the church ordered 5 pods from UHaul. Working with the town social services office, food is collected during a specified 3 hour window, then the pod is closed for the 7 days, recommended by the local health director, so that any virus will be innocuous. Drive up distribution takes place after that.
First Congregational Church of Lee (Lee, MA)
The Lee Food Pantry, serving Lee, Tyringham, Becket, Otis, and Stockbridge is open every Saturday from 10 AM - 12 noon. The volunteers maintain social distancing for those waiting in line. One person is allowed into the facility at a time to pick up their designated family size of pre-bagged food. The church reports that the local community has been very generous supplying food for the pantry.
Drew Page is the Media and Data Manager for the Southern New England Conference, and a member of the Conference's Communications Team. He writes and edits news, blogs, and devotionals, produces video, and spends a week each summer as a Dean at Silver...