February 2nd, 2011

Seven months after we visited Mobile for our Hunger Workshop last June, friends there are continuing to make huge strides in fighting hunger.

Oak McCullough of the Bay Area Food Bank spoke about their innovative emergency food distribution programs.

“Your conference had a major impact,” says Diane Baldwin, pastor at Georgetown-Chunchula UMC. “It created a better network, brought us closer to other projects in the area, and it showed us different ideas and people we could go to.”

James Miles of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service shared resources for community gardeners.

Rev. Jean Tippit agrees that the workshop had a positive impact. “That information you gave us [on poverty and health] was some of the most eye-opening information I have ever heard,” she says. “[APP Americorps VISTA] Haley Heckman’s testimony about going on food stamps was very powerful. It was a good day.”

Here are a few of the projects we’re hearing about from Hunger Workshop attendees:

– Rev. Baldwin reports that her congregation has developed a comprehensive food assistance ministry in Chunchula, including:

  • mobile food pantries, which they operate with the Bay Area Food Bank, distributing 5,000-6,000 pounds of food per day;
  • a drive-through food pantry which serves about 100 families at a time, who schedule a time in advance to drive by and pick up 60 pound boxes of food;
  • opportunities for clients to meet DHR representatives to learn about SNAP and other longer-term government food assistance programs;
  • snack backpacks for school kids who are at risk of hunger to take home over the weekend;
  • an emergency food pantry for community members who are in immediate need; and,
  • regular food deliveries to elderly shut-ins.

– Rev. Mark Renn’s congregation at Providence Presbyterian is partnering with churches in Pritchard and downtown Mobile to help plant more church gardens, bringing fresh produce and food assistance to even more communities.

Mark Renn shared fresh produce with Hunger Workshop participants last June.

– Rev. Jean Tippit of Grace United Methodist Church brought her 3.0 missional interns to the workshop and recruited many of them to work in a local community garden. One of the 3.0 alumna, Stephanie Bamberg, has since started the “We Got Your Back” backpack snack program for low-income students in Bibb County.

–  Another 3.0 intern, Porsche Holland, went to work with the Dumas Wesley community center which has now founded its own community garden. They were able to connect with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service after hearing about them through the hunger workshop. Now ACES is a key partner in planning, constructing and training for the garden.

– Rev. Baldwin also organized supporters from our Hunger Workshop to help the Bay Area Food Bank receive a $100,000 grant to fund innovative food delivery systems like the mobile food pantries.

It all goes to show you that sometimes you just need to get the right group of people in a room together!

We hope to return to Mobile in April to highlight some more of the great work going on along the coast – stay tuned for details.

Posted by Robyn Hyden