Good Eats Ministry: “Care for the least and the lost.”

All hands on deck to help feed hungry kids!

All hands on deck to help feed hungry kids!

Did you know six percent of children in Washington County go without food on the weekends? They literally don’t eat from the time they’re served lunch at school on Friday until Monday morning when breakfast is served. And it’s not just families in Washington County who are starving two or more days a week.

“Hunger is a world-wide epidemic,” said Reverend B.T. Gilligan, pastor at California United Methodist Church. But, he added, there’s actually enough food to go around.

“Distribution is the real problem,” he explained.

Gilligan, along with members of his church, was appalled by the aforementioned statistic and decided to take action beginning in their community. Spearheaded by Sheila Chambers, church members initiated a project to help combat hunger called the Good Eats Ministry for children enrolled in California Area School District.

The aim of the Good Eats Ministry is very simple but the project is already making a big impact in the lives of area children. The packs were first distributed last year on December 23 and will continue to be given away every week. Every week, volunteers gather on Thursday afternoons at 4:30 p.m. at California United Methodist Church where they compile packs of enough food to see a child through the weekend. If there’s no school on Friday, packs are assembled on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. for Thursday morning distribution. The packs are transported to California Area Elementary School where they’re placed in students’ lockers while they’re in class to help protect their privacy.

Each pack includes “shelf stable” food that can be easily prepared in the microwave by a Kindergarten age child as well as high protein items such as breakfast bars and grab and go options like Pop-Tarts. “Shelf stable” foods are items that don’t require refrigeration.

For now, the project serves students in Kindergarten and first grade and their siblings. Letters were sent from the school district to Kindergarteners and first graders currently enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program giving them the option of receiving weekly packs of food to see them through the weekend.

Asked about the high sugar and sodium content of some of the foods given away, Gilligan admitted not all of the items in the packs were necessarily healthy choices.

“It’s a trade off,” he said. “Some food is better than no food.” That’s a sentiment it’s difficult to argue with.

Using monetary donations, food for the packs is purchased through the Washington County Food Bank for 21 cents a pound. Donations may be made payable to “Good Eats Ministry” and sent to or dropped off at California United Methodist Church. The church is located at 227 Third Street in California. Donations of shelf stable food items are also welcome.

Potential donors wishing to drop off checks, cash or food items at the church are urged to call 724-938-2270 in advance to make sure someone is there to open the door.

In addition to feeding hungry children, the project aims to lower the rate of students dropping out of high school. According to Gilligan, statistics show when students go hungry at home, they often perform poorly in school. Frustrated by their academic progress, many drop out of school altogether.

Gilligan said the Good Eats Ministry is a natural project for the church that began after members completed a study of Mike Slaughter’s Change the World: Recovering the Mission and Message of Jesus.

“Jesus tells us to care for the lost and the least,” Gilligan said. By feeding the hungry, the Good Eats Ministry aims to do exactly as Jesus suggested.

The Good Eats Ministry will continue throughout the school year and plans are in motion to offer a hot lunch program for area students a few days a week during the summer months.

For more information, contact the church or like them on Facebook.
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