Friday, Feb. 14, a remarkable gathering of leaders from local government, social agencies and churches took place in Waverly, Iowa. The purpose of this meeting was to tackle the challenge of ensuring that no one in the town of Waverly ever go hungry again.
The issue of hunger in America can be an overwhelming one. But Waverly Mayor and retired ELCA pastor Chuck Infelt and Joe Young, program director from the ELCA Poverty and Justice Ministries, came up with the idea of a Food Security Summit.
Because Waverly is not known for complex problems related to
poverty, the idea is to start in a place that seems relatively easy. It is a pilot program to discover what works
here and then build on those successes in more impoverished areas.
First we begin with some definitions. Because hunger is a vague term (you and I get hungry if we are late to lunch), Joe Young explained the terms “Food Security” and “Food Insecurity”.
Food security includes the following:
- Ready availability of nutritional adequate and
- Assured ability to acquire food in socially
- Access by all people at all times to enough food
for an active healthy life
Food insecurity is limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food and limited or uncertain ways to acquire food in socially acceptable ways.
Although Waverly, Iowa does not suffer the same level of poverty as many US cities, there is, nevertheless, a more hidden problem of food insecurity in this area.
12 % of people in Northeastern Iowa Synod worry about whether they will have enough to eat. Of those, only 38% are eligible for any kind of government assistance. In Bremer County, 14 % of children go hungry and 60% of those children are not eligible for any government help.*
One of the purposes of this meeting was to gather together those in the community who are serving the poor, discover the barriers to food security in Waverly, and then combine resources to remove them.
For example, many churches run backpack programs that send food home so school children will have food over the weekend. Someone shared
how they were asking individuals in the congregation to donate jars of peanut
butter. Barb Prather of the North East Iowa Food Bank told her they could buy peanut butter from the food bank at a reduced price and be able to provide far more peanut butter. From that connection alone, more children are going to have access to food.
There were lots of ideas flowing, but now the hard work of follow up begins.
As Pastor Mark Anderson, who participated in a panel discussion on behalf of Bishop Ullestad noted, “When government, church, and social agencies partner together to ensure food security, the possibilities are endless.”
By Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson, Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA