Food ministries across diocese have continued to provide food to hungry people throughout the year. And while some report the need has remained steady since March, others have seen a noticeable increase in people seeking help.
Two churches that prepare sack lunches every Saturday — Grace Cathedral, Topeka and St. John’s, Wichita — are serving about the same number of people in December as they did in the spring. St. John’s serves about 200 lunches each week, and the cathedral said they serve about 575 people each month, although in October that hit an all-time high of 656 lunches.
Kent Wingerson of the cathedral staff said they see the most people on the last Saturday of every month. “It’s noticeably bigger,” he said, surmising that money has gotten tighter for people as they await checks after the first of the month.
Breakthrough/Episcopal Social Services in Wichita has switched from serving lunch to breakfast, so people don’t have to go without food in between noon meals. They serve about 120 people every morning. Staff member Rachel Newell said, “Breakthrough is not seeing a rise in homelessness and hungry at our door, but the need is constant.”
Barry Molineux said the Trinity Interfaith Food Pantry, housed at Trinity, Lawrence, helps between 250 and 270 households each month, which is about a 10 percent increase from the start of the pandemic in March. He said they are seeing more patrons who are unhoused or who live in transitional housing than they did before. “When they pick up a bag of food, they tell us they need food that does not require cooking,” he said, like canned soup or peanut butter and jelly.
The monthly Mobile Food Pantry sponsored by St. Paul’s, Clay Center, has seen a 30 percent increase in patrons recently. “In November we served 260 households,” said Donna Long, a volunteer. “We usually are about 180–200.” Deacon Carolyn Garwood said those 260 households represented 734 people. She noted that Harvesters Food Bank was able to provide more food, thanks to a new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The most dramatic jump in need is seen in Junction City, where the Church of the Covenant offers a weekly Community Dinner. It began in February serving 30 people on average, and by late November they were providing 160 or more meals every Tuesday evening. Parish rector the Rev. Doreen Rice says dinner guests, who now pick up a grab-and-go meal, include “young families, Fort Riley soldiers, seniors and homeless members of the community.” One grandmother, she said, picks up 11 meals to feed her children and grandchildren.
The church also will be the site for a new community kitchen pantry, which will provide basic kitchen utensils to people who may not have the means to cook for themselves. Covenant also will serve as a test kitchen for new online cooking classes.