Anthropologist Margaret Mead is famous for saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
This kind of world-scale change often begins locally, and Congregational Church of Tryon member Priscilla Yeager saw a need three years ago, and began organizing church members to fill it.
School kids whose families struggle to get by on little money are always what hunger demographers now term “food insecure,” and the problem gets worse in the summer, when school’s out. I had seen my wife, Linda, help organize a summer feeding program in the city of Longmont, CO, where I’m based, for kids who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. At the time, she was working for the City’s department of Children, Youth, and Families, and churches were instrumental in that program’s successful launch two summers ago. It was based in a neighborhood park that first year, and the Episcopal church nearby, St. Stephen’s, provided crucial support to its beginning.
This summer is the third for Polk County’s Feed-a-Kid program, and The Congregational Church of Tryon, UCC, partnered with Thermal Belt Outreach Ministries, a social service organization in nearby Columbus, to gather money to buy food, and volunteers to pack bags of it, organizing delivery routes to homes in the towns and especially in the surrounding rural areas, which can be hard to reach.Food for the program is ordered from Manna Food Bank, based in Asheville, and is delivered to Thermal Belt Outreach. Volunteers also make several trips to a big-box discount store to round out the diet. Each bag includes 9-12 food items per child, and then the larger family bag is supplemented with produce and breads, as well. The program runs for 10 weeks, with packing taking place on Mondays and deliveries on Wednesdays. The Manna buying channels stretch the funds to provide kid-friendly food that’s easy for kids to fix whose parents both work and who are alone for much of each day.
At a recent Congregational Church Board of Outreach meeting, I learned that the program has gained two more partners, both churches: Transfiguration Episcopal in nearby Saluda, and the Unitarian Universalist Church here in Tryon. Both churches have committed in a big way, providing $1,200 more in funding and 12 more volunteers to more effectively handle the delivery routes.
Feed-a-Kid is currently providing food to 139 children from 44 families, which is a big jump from last year, when the program served 98 children from 32 families.