Michelle Weaver said people used to associate hunger with homelessness, but from where she sits, she feels that just isn’t the case anymore.
As community ministry director at First Baptist Church Alabaster, Weaver sees people from all walks of life wait in line every second and fourth Monday to get food from their drive-through food pantry.
“In this day and in this economy, there are families we have met who are nurses, bankers, teachers and college students,” she said. “It’s a diverse population right now needing food assistance because groceries have gone sky high, medical bills aren’t being covered, or they can’t afford medical insurance or their hours are being cut at work.”
And not only are the lines full of a broad spectrum of people, they’re also getting longer, Weaver said. Their ministry has tripled in the last three years and takes between 30 and 40 volunteers to run.
“We used to start out with 15 to 20 cars in our drive-through and can get 100 cars now, some with multiple families in the car,” she said. “We feed between 500 and 600 people every Monday we do our food ministry.”
FBC Alabaster’s food pantry started 20 years ago with boxes of food stored in a closet and has grown over the years and adapted to meet people where they are. In years past, people could come to the ministry, talk to the volunteers about their financial need and then receive food.
Now the only requirement is to drive through and show proof of residency in Shelby County, Weaver said. “Our No. 1 goal is to feed the hungry. We feel if they’re going to sit in that long line to get groceries, they have to have a need.”
She said families have come back to let her and others at the church know that without the ministry, they “wouldn’t have made it the past several months.”
They’ve also received cards and letters of thanks and have heard of some food recipients who have started doing their own food drives after they got back on their feet.
The costs to maintain this kind of ministry are going up, Weaver said, but “God has unbelievably blessed our ministry.”
“Whenever we feel like we are at the end of our resources, we get a donation,” she said.
One of the ways the ministry is supplemented is through funds from the Hunger Offering collected by Alabama Baptist churches. The offering’s focus Sunday is February 19, though funds are received all year long.
God’s Word is clear
Kristy Kennedy, an associate in the office of associational missions and church planting of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said God’s Word is clear that His people are to take care of those in need, and one of the greatest needs today is food for those who struggle with hunger.
“One of the ways that we as Southern Baptists address this need is through our Hunger Offering,” she said. “The Hunger Offering is used to provide food to those who have hunger needs whether in Alabama, North America or around the world.”
When a dollar is given to the offering, the first 25% goes to feed the hungry in Alabama by assisting associations and designated churches with food pantries, Kennedy said. The remaining 75% is distributed through the Global Hunger Fund. Of that second portion, 80% goes to the International Mission Board for overseas hunger projects and 20% goes to the North American Mission Board to support hunger projects in the U.S. and Canada.
One hundred percent of gifts go straight to purchase food, Kennedy said.
“The Hunger Offering helps provide funding to ministries like the First Baptist Church Alabaster food ministry,” she said. “They are meeting hunger needs of families in their community who are having a difficult time putting food on the table due to the inflation that we have seen over the past few years which has greatly affected our food prices.”
Some two-income households are still finding it difficult to provide for their families in recent days, Kennedy said. “Ministries like the one at FBC Alabaster are making a big difference during these difficult times in our state and world, and they are able to do what they do in part because of your giving to the Hunger Offering.”
For more information about how to give to the offering or promote it in your church, visit alsbom.org/hunger.
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