CrossRoads, Loaves and Fishes, and MPPC members respond to the staggering surge of demand for food.
“This is significant.”
Tiffany Capers, the Executive Director for CrossRoads, was watching as Governor Cooper announced he had signed an executive order closing all public schools in North Carolina. “What will children who rely on school to meet academic, social, and nutritional needs do? I wondered what plan would CMS activate to ensure at least two of the most obvious needs—learning and food—did not go unmet. This is always the question I have when students who are already in vulnerable positions experience a disruption. How does the system respond given the extenuating circumstances of their situations? Can the system respond?”
As a “community quarterback” organization, CrossRoads was well placed to marshal resources that would address the needs of the community in the Grier Heights neighborhood of Charlotte. Tiffany got on the phone with other community leaders on Saturday when they heard the announcement. “We sent a message to congregations and to our broader support and partner base by Sunday morning. We had donations by Sunday afternoon.”
So many donations, in fact, that they needed to scale up their distribution to match. Even then, the need remains for many families who may not know where their next meal is coming from.
Governor Cooper closes schools across North Carolina.
CrossRoads, the Grier Heights Community Center, and the Grier Heights Community Improvement Organization coordinate an initial plan.
Word goes out about the need to provide emergency nutrition to students who rely on CMS for meals.
Donations from congregations and the broader support network flood in.
No one expected such an abrupt explosion of food insecurity for children, but CrossRoads has a deep network of support, committed staff, and eager volunteers. In the first three days, they were able to deliver over 700 meals to neighborhood children and provide bags of groceries and dry goods to families. “We have continued to be in rapid-response mode to ensure we continue to provide for students and families in the community,” says Tiffany.
Meals delivered in three days
Citywide, there has been an overwhelming demand for food. “Our neighbors are finding themselves in desperate situations, many for the first time in their lives,” says Tina Postel, Executive Director of Loaves and Fishes, one of our food-access partners serving Charlotte. They served over 15,535 individuals in April, an increase of 240% over April of 2019. “While the challenges are great right now, so are the blessings. Every day, people contact us offering financial support, food donations, volunteer help, and prayers,” says Tina. “The world can seem like a scary place right now, but at Loaves and Fishes we get to experience humanity at its finest on a daily basis!”
Humanity at its finest. Living lives that honor God. This is what the church has always strived toward, and while everything seems different, the love of God and our response to it has remained. That was how the Christmas family decided to get involved. “We were looking for ways we could help those in need in our community,” says Dana Christmas. “It also helps our children understand that many families are struggling to meet their basic needs of food and shelter during this pandemic.” They got busy, delivering casseroles made by the church food service ministry, packing lunches for the Men’s Shelter, and organizing a front-yard food drive for Loaves and Fishes.
They’re not alone. Families of all shapes and sizes are re-framing their ideas of service and outreach. Backyard lunch packing parties have replaced face-to-face outreach. We’re leaning on the relationships we’ve developed over the years and long to return to. Until that can happen, our ministry has to adapt.
Even the church kitchen has re-tooled its mission to provide emergency support to our Outreach partners at the Men’s Shelter, Hope Haven, and Charlotte Rescue Mission. “Without all of our regular meetings and Weekday School meals, we were looking for a way to help the community and stay busy,” says Debbie Armstrong, one of the food service employees at MPPC. She does some quick mental calculation and continues, “We’ve got to be hitting about 300 casseroles this week. That’s a lot of meals.” In fact, that’s well over 2,500 meals.
Food collection boxes with homemade signs. Brown paper bags. Foil casserole trays. That’s a big part of what our outreach efforts look like these days. “It means a lot to be doing this,” says Debbie. “It’s special. This is real special.”