Fighting Hunger Amid New Challenges
By Trevor Brown
When new challenges swept across the globe as a result of a coronavirus pandemic, many ministries found themselves slowing down, taking a necessary break, or put on pause. Others were forced to swiftly adapt to unexpected changes in order to meet quickly increasing needs.
Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas, called it “a perfect storm.” The COVID-19 pandemic created an environment in which volunteers dramatically declined, funds decreased, and food became more challenging to distribute. “Food, funds, volunteers,” Cole recently described, “those have all declined across the state.”
While this has been true of Texas food banks, it has not stopped the people of First Baptist Church.
Perkins Community Center
Every week, dozens of households receive emergency food relief from FBC’s food pantry ministry. Beginning in March, it was moved out to the parking lot of the Perkins Community Center as volunteers packed essentials and delivered them to vehicles. White cardboard boxes, once brought to FBC carrying thousands of worship bulletins for weekly gatherings, were repurposed into grocery boxes. In the coming months, the center continued filling boxes with canned goods, pastas, meat, cereal, hygiene items, and more.
When items ran low at the food bank, volunteers went to the stores to keep food shelves stocked. Before funds were even in crisis, phone calls to the office were filling the gap. When a few more workers were needed, more came. In April alone, around 500 people were served through the curbside food boxes, offered every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00-10:45 AM (1515 S Buchanan St.). This service continues to be available to anyone experiencing food insecurity.
At Margaret Wills Elementary, with whom FBC has a year-round partnership, weekday volunteers have been fighting hunger and food insecurity for years. Kids Cafe is a program of Feeding America, offered by the High Plains Food Bank to children in need of daily, healthy meals. For many children in the Texas Panhandle, the meal provided through Kids Cafe is a daily nutritious dinner they may otherwise go without.
In the wake of school closures, FBC volunteers who regularly serve there relocated from the cafeteria to the parking lot. There, pre-packaged meals were given to hundreds of families through car windows.
Throughout March and April, the service was instrumental in alleviating food concerns facing an already at-risk population. Volunteers stood in the parking lot happily waving meals in the air so no one missed out. As one student commented, “They don’t just serve us food; they care about us!”
Snack Pak 4 Kids
The same can be said for FBC’s regular Snack Pak 4Kids volunteers who continue to combat weekend hunger. Every Friday of the school year, Snack Pak 4 Kids provides kids with reliable, nutritious food over the weekend so they can succeed.
A team of volunteers from First Baptist is diligent in meeting the need through Glenwood Elementary. Volunteers separately pick up food orders from the SP4K warehouse, pack sacks on FBC’s campus, and deliver them to the site.
When Glenwood became a hub for AISD’s food distribution during the pandemic changes, the need at that location grew dramatically.
FBC volunteers, who are normally responsible for around 500 weekend packs per month, found themselves stepping in to provide nearly 900 snack packs in April alone. They also accepted the call to continue the service through the summer months, as needed.
When food, funds, and volunteers were at risk, the First Baptist family proved again and again to be diligent and faithful servants, ready to rise to the occasion at every twist and turn.
WHAT'S IN A SNACK PACK?
“Brand Name. Brand New.” That’s the mantra at SP4K. When kids open their bags full of weekend food (pictured above), they learn that they are important. They receive nutritious foods with dignity and respect. There are 10,000 kids that don’t go without because of the commitment of this program. Snack Pak 4 Kids continues to fight weekend hunger in order to remove barriers to education. As they proudly boast across the region on trucks and billboards: “Kids can change the world when they’re full.”