May 24, 2017
“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.” -Luke 6:25
On the third Saturday of each month, the young adults of St. Paul’s and I operate a feeding program. It is meant to be a supplement to all the others; the name is Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, and it is administered through the state by the USDA. The state receives block grants to purchase excess food from American food producers, and then give them out once a month. Because the emphasis is on excess, the food available varies widely, and with little rationale. For a year running, we had more instant mashed potatoes than we could deal with. I threatened that if another box of mashed potatoes entered my church, I would mix them all up and make a snowman in protest. For another 7 months, we had 4 types of cranberry products each month: dried cranberries, frozen cranberries, cranberry juice, and cranberry sauce. (We also had Cheerios and some frozen blueberries. For variety.)
The frustrating nature of what we have on offer each month seems mostly to bother the volunteers. The patrons, I think, have been through this rodeo and have adjusted their expectations. Every month, I survey the parade of fruit juice, peanut butter, and carbs, and wonder how on earth anyone with a chronic illness is supposed to survive on this food. Every month, the volunteers and I hand out the food to cheerful and excited patrons, who explain excitedly to us what they plan to cook with it. “This here cranberry concentrate? That’s real good poured over ice cream. Like a sundae but better!” “Y’all tried these eggs right here? 5 dozen real eggs, just frozen in a container! You could make some real good french toast with this, I bet.”
While I still would beg my congressional representatives on bended knee to figure out a better way to feed people, I think a powerful part of what we do on Saturdays is that conversation. Swapping recipes changes the dynamic–we’re no longer Nice Privileged People Helping the Poor. Now, we’re People, who are on the same team, fighting the same fight against hunger.
Megan Castellan is our writer this week. She serves as Assistant Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri, and diocesan youth coordinator for the Metro Kansas City area. Her ongoing adventures and strong opinions are chronicled in her blog Red Shoes, Funny Shirt and on Twitter @revlucymeg. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, playing with yarn, throwing jellybeans at politicians she disagrees with on TV, and cheering on KC-based sportsball teams.