Today I've been writing a story for the Methodists about a Summer Nutrition Program (SNP) the Florida Conference has adopted as an initiative. My research involved a visit to a participating congregation and interviews with some of the key players.
One astounding tidbit of information pointed to the additional 75,000 children added to Florida's free-lunch eligibility just last year. These are children identified as likely NOT receiving adequate or appropriate levels of nourishment at home. This year, with a burgeoning economic crisis affecting the poor most of all, the rolls will undoubtedly expand again.
This is where the SNP comes in. Kids who are not in school for the long summer months are losing ground in a variety of ways. Children who are not eating properly also tend to miss out on the kinds of enrichment activities that help keep them learning and ready for school in the fall. It turns out to be more than a double whammy. Not only are they behind academically, they're behind socially and culturally. Poor nutritian just makes the situation worse.
And so Methodist districts have committed to working with Florida Impact (a Tallahassee based non-profit) to open feeding centers wherever possible. The response has been good, but the people I talked with in Tallahassee estimate only 12% of eligible children are being reached.
The church I visited was utilizing economic stimulus monies from the state to employ and train youth to run a day camp and also serve nutritious meals to children from the neighborhood.
The church is economically challenged itself. With a small membership and lots of financial crisis, from lost jobs to forelosures to crippling debt. It made sense to have the day camp and nutritian program there because that's the neighborhood where it's needed. But what astounded me is the fact that the larger churches in the district were not helping out, with volunteers or resources or both.
It reminded me of why it is so critical that we always look outwards as faith communities, that we are blessed to be a blessing, and - most importantly - that churches are not isolated or individualistic... but a part of the body of Christ.
Ultimately, it's all about community.
Grace and peace - DEREK