By Aisha Figilis-Williams (First Published in the Spring 2023 Issue of The Messenger)
The FUMC Food Pantry has provided food, hygiene supplies, clothing, and blankets to our unhoused, food-insecure, and low-income community for over 20 years.
While we hope to return to one-on-one service with our clients and volunteers soon, we are still implementing COVID protocols for the saftey of all we serve. Our safety measures haven’t stopped us from finding creative ways to add a few personal touches to our Tuesday morning program. In mid-2021, we started Coffee and Conversation with Rev. Jen Chapman, her pup Lucy, and Rev. Kyle Sears, Senior Pastor at La Canada UCC. Recently, Ann Burke, Amanda Lynn-Paul, Mary Gilbert-Palmer, and others started being a part of this offering.
Clients are now able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and pastries, and spend time chatting with the pastors or having the pastors be in prayer with them. This program has blossomed into so much more than just a hot cup of coffee. Our clients feel part of a community with this small touch. It resembles friends meeting at a coffee bar to catch up. Clients have told us they enjoy this because there are few places that offer something as simple as a cup of joe and a chat.
Small additions to the program, such as Coffee and Conversation, make a big difference in the lives of our clients. However, the changing landscape of assistance programs is cause for alarm. During the pandemic, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aid was temporarily increased to help millions of low-income, food insecurity Americans. Starting Mar 1, those individuals enrolled in this program will see those extra funds cut. Quoting J.J. McCorvey and Rob Wile from NBC News: “Research by the Urban Institute, a Washington-based nonpartisan think tank for economic and social policy, found that the enhanced SNAP benefits kept 4.2 million people above the poverty line in the final quarter of 2021, lowering overall poverty by 10% and child poverty by 14%. The study also found that the emergency program helped reduce poverty rates most steeply among Black and Latino recipients.”
With food, housing, and utility prices on the rise, some of our clients will have to decide what their priorities are; keep warm, keep a roof over their heads, or eat. We anticipate our client numbers will increase as they did at the beginning of the pandemic. Through the grace of God, and the loving donations from our church and community, our food pantry will continue to do its utmost to provide services for our clients. The Bible tells us, “Put your hope in God who richly provides us with everything” (1 Timothy 6:17).