By Lu Stanton León
Whether you’re interested in lacing up your walking shoes or sponsoring those who do, you can help fight hunger and malnutrition in the diocese by supporting the upcoming 2016 Hunger Walks. Money raised from the walks—$8,000 last year—is distributed by the Diocesan Hunger Fund and goes directly to organizations working against hunger throughout local communities.
This year’s two Hunger Walks get underway at 1:30 p. m. Sunday, October 16. One starts at Lake Needwood in Derwood, Maryland, and is organized by the youth group at Christ Church, Rockville. The other walk begins at Serenity Farm in Benedict, Maryland, and is organized by parishioners at Christ Church, Port Tobacco Parish in La Plata, and Christ Church, Old Durham.
Last year the Diocesan Hunger Fund distributed $53,200.00 in grants to 13 organizations. The fund receives administrative support from the diocese but no funds from the diocesan budget. All funding comes from parishes, either through monthly or periodic collections or special events like the annual Hunger Walks.
This past June a $4,400 Hunger Fund grant was awarded to the Kwanzaa Kitchen breakfast program, which has operated out of St. George’s Episcopal Church in the Bloomingdale/LeDroit area of northwest Washington since 1992. Volunteers there serve 50 to 100 hot breakfast meals (dine-ins and carry outs) two Saturdays each month.
“Our program wouldn’t exist without the Hunger Fund,” says Janis Evans, who has volunteered at Kwanzaa Kitchen since 1994 and is now program coordinator. “We have seen the number of people served go down over the years, but I think it’s because of gentrification. A lot of people have been pushed out. Now, between 25 to 40 people come for breakfast. In addition to giving them a dine-in plate, they can take carryout. A lot of them take one home to eat later or take to shut-ins.”
The Hunger Fund was established in the mid-1970s under Bishop John. 2016 has been a tough year for the fund.
“This has been the worst year for money I’ve seen in a long time,” says Lee Mericle, chair of the Hunger Fund committee. “We are way down in funds this year. I don’t know why, but as of August we had received a little over $51,000 in requests and had funded a little over $25,000, which is not good.”
The Hunger Fund awards grants throughout the year. Mericle hopes that direct donations and donations from the Hunger Walks will increase this fall. Direct donations can be made through diocesan churches. Donors can also give online.
As with many feeding programs, the Hunger Fund is Kwanzaa Kitchen’s life line.
“Number one, because of our financial issues, it would be impossible for St. George’s to fund a program like this,” Evans says. “We really count on the Hunger Fund to provide this service. And two, the patrons look forward to it. They don’t have the resources for a hot meal. They look forward to a nutritious, hot, full breakfast.”
The nourishment they receive goes beyond a hot meal.
“We get to know them by name,” says Evans, who is chair of St. George’s outreach committee and is a licensed counselor. “It’s like a family. They look forward to it. It’s not just breakfast; it is fellowship.”
Breakfast is served from 9 a. m. until about 11 a.m. by volunteers including parishioners, community members, fraternities, sororities, and high school students fulfilling community service requirements. The menu includes scrambled eggs with cheese, turkey bacon, pancakes, seasonal grits or cereal, coffee and juice. And sometimes fresh fruit on special occasions and holidays.
“I start with a scripture reading, then we have a prayer,” Evans says. “We move into the kitchen and have prayer for the servers. Then we serve. I’ve done surveys before where I’ve asked them what is it that keeps them coming back. A lot of them say for the fellowship, for the prayer. It’s not just the food.”
In addition to Kwanzaa Kitchen, the Hunger Fund awarded grants in the District to: Calvary Church; Charlie’s Place at St. Margaret’s Church; the Welcome Table at Church of the Epiphany; Loaves and Fishes at St. Stephen and the Incarnation; Seabury Resources for Aging and Reaching the World Community Development. The fund awarded grants in Maryland to: Christ Church, Port Tobacco’s food pantry; the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless; Mt. Ennon Development Corporation; St. Peter’s, Poolesville; Shepherd’s Table; and We Are Family Senior Outreach.
To participate in the upcoming Hunger Walks, get people to make a donation to support your walk and turn in the donations at a parish church. Others who wish to support the fund can donate online.
The walk at Lake Needlewood usually starts with yoga stretching exercises and goes along the 75-acre lake that is surrounded by parkland. The walk at Serenity Farm runs through a working farm that dates to the founding of Benedict, in the late 17th century. Both walks are laid out so walkers traverse between five and 10 kilometers, or 3.1 or 6.2 miles.