Feeding our bodies and souls
“Hey Mom, I’m starving!” If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard those words hundreds of times. I know I did when my children were small, and then as teenagers they seemed to have bottomless pits instead of tummies.
For years, it seemed I spent my life grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning up, and then starting over again the next day. My kids are grown now, but when we’re all together, it’s still one of the greatest joys of my life to fix them supper, clean up the kitchen and then begin again the very next morning.
It’s one of the greatest blessings of any parent’s life to feed his or her children, and the truth is that my kids were never starving — they just thought they were after long hours of sleep or school or play.
Most of us don’t know what it’s like to feel the kind of hunger that comes after a couple of days with little to eat, but there are children in our community whose parents have a difficult time keeping enough food in the house to feed them, families who run out of food before the month runs out and parents who have no answers — or food — to give their kids when they ask for supper.
As the pastor of Eagle River Presbyterian Church for the last dozen years, it’s been my blessing to share in the Chugiak-Eagle River Food Pantry’s mission to feed the hungry in our community. The Pantry is housed in our building, and from my desk, I can see that there isn’t a day that goes by that somebody doesn’t come to see if the Pantry is open.
There also isn’t a day that somebody from the community doesn’t bring food to share. Individuals, businesses, school groups, other churches, community organizations — so many people contribute time and food and funds so that hungry families can put supper on their tables.
Last year, the Food Pantry took in almost 200,000 pounds of food either through direct donations or by shopping at local stores and the Anchorage Food Bank. Yes, that’s correct — 100 tons of food!
That food fed more than 600 families, 6,000 people, almost half of them children. Every year the need is greater. We saw more families in 2013 than in 2012, and almost every month sees more hungry people than the month before.
Those who need help live in our neighborhoods, go to school with our kids, worship in our churches and play in the park just like us. They are parents who want the simple blessing of putting supper on the table when their children are hungry, and who don’t take that blessing for granted.
When I came to Eagle River Presbyterian, I didn’t know that such a significant part of my work would be feeding bodies as well as souls, but over the years, I’ve seen that feeding people’s bodies feeds their — and our — souls, too.
Every fall, my congregation provides baskets for families who otherwise wouldn’t have Thanksgiving dinner. The baskets include the basics — potatoes, pies, rolls and dressing, but the turkeys are in the church freezer until they go home with a family.
This year, one young boy came in with his mom and one of our helpers offered to carry the basket of food out to their car if the boy would carry the turkey. The child looked up at our church member — and with wide eyes and an expression of utter surprise on his face — said, “You mean we get to take a turkey, too?”
There are many kinds of hunger — in our bodies, our hearts and our souls. Our community is working together to feed the hungry, and we are all fed by God’s ministry that we share.
I’m blessed to be part of the feeding and the sharing, and blessed even more to be able to take this time to thank so many people in our community who share with those who need it most.
If you’re hungry, or if you want to share your blessings, we’re located at 12836 Old Glenn Highway. Come and see us — either way you’ll be fed!
Rev. Piper Cartland is pastor at Eagle River Presbyterian Church.