You shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket ... and set it down before the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 26:2,10) Almost every parish at some point in time over the course of the year collects food for the hungry in their community, puts it in a basket (or two) and brings the food up to the altar for a blessing before it is distributed. This witness is both recognition of the need, and an acknowledgment that God is working through God's people who are called to fill that need.
Recently Feeding America conducted its "Hunger in America" survey, something they do every four years. The results are startling but not surprising. In New Jersey, food is served by about 1,700 feeding programs. These programs collectively served 830,000 different people last year. 71% of all pantries are faith-based programs and 69% rely entirely on volunteers to serve. It appears that the People of God are rising to the call to give and serve, even as the number of people served in New Jersey has risen 45% over the last four years.
"Hello, I have a client here that has three children and has no food in the house, can you help her? ... I have never been to a food pantry in my life but I need to eat, what do I do? ... I'm in a wheelchair, do you deliver?"
We are blessed often to be able to provide answers to these questions, because there are congregations in every county that serve the hungry every day of the week. (And yes, some do deliver!) A conservative estimate is that we in the Diocese of Newark directly fed 174,000 people last year.
And for every congregation that serves directly there are many others that are critical partners in their mission to gather and give the fruit of the harvest.
This is an incomplete list. If you would like to add your feeding program, please contact Diane Riley.
Community Food Bank
New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition