Anticipating the Incoming Waves of Food and Housing Crises for Families through 2025
All of us are struggling through a deadly Pandemic that has taken over 210,000 lives in the United States. It has disrupted all our lives and has taken too many of the lives of our friends and loved ones. Most of us realize that this disruption is not going to end any time soon. Many of our churches are reaching out in caring ways to both members and neighbors.
However, given the tidal waves coming our way in the next three to five years, our responses for our lives and congregations are not nearly enough. We need to ask the Spirit of the living God to ignite our imaginations to move from charity to empowerment as well!
The Covid Hardship Watch reports that this crisis is particularly impacting “Black, Latino, Indigenous, and immigrant households…”. The extent and severity of continued hardships like hunger, eviction, and homeliness will depend on whether such relief is robust and reaches those in need. The implications for children in particular are significant.
However, many of us are less aware of the new Pandemic Recession that could happen in the next five years. It is creating a global food crisis and the worst food and housing crisis in the United States since the great recession before the Second World War. It is essential that all of our churches wake up to this crisis and join the new garden revolution.
“Fourteen percent of households with children recently reported they lacked sufficient food to last 7 days compared to 8% without children. More than 4 in 10 children living in rental housing live in a household that either isn’t getting enough to eat or is not caught up on rent,” according to the Covid Hardship Watch.
Family, Food & Shelter Response NOW!
Clearly, this Pandemic food and shelter crisis is becoming much worse for families in all our communities for 2020 to 2025. Here are some immediate ways that you and your church can join Christians and congregations who are creating ways of responding to both the immediate crisis & the long term needs for impoverished families.
1. Responding to the immediate food and shelter needs for families and their kids
Appoint a small group in your church who are known for their ability to make things happen to:
- Rapidly expand what your church is already doing in terms of neighborhood feeding programs;
- Partner with local feeding programs in your community;
- Partner with local Black, Latino and First Nations congregations in your community whose families and kids could be facing greater challenges due to high rates of unemployment;
- Respond to the growing housing evictions by considering a partnership with local motels and hotels to enable homeless families to secure interim housing;
- Directly support the important nonprofits, that already work with families such as Bridge of Hope
2. Responding to long term needs of families and their kids as First Nations first responders
“Poverty, limited health care, and, in some areas, lack of running water for frequent anti-virus hand-washing, means the COVID-19 pandemic has hit certain tribes, notably the Navajo Nation, hard.” Julie Garreau, the Director for the Cheyenne River Youth Project in South Dakota, said, “these tragedies are always so hard on kids.” She added, “Don’t ever let people tell you children don’t know what is going on.”
The Cheyenne River Youth Project is making a difference. “With its 2.5-acre garden, café, gym, and library, the organization has long provided children with good food and a safe place to learn and have fun.” They drive around in their pickup delivering food to up to 75 kids a day. Garreau said they hope to increase to 250 kids.
They are encouraging families on the reservation to start gardens on their own plot growing “tomatoes, peppers, green beans, radishes, summer and winter squash, onions, or leafy greens.” They also are encouraging them to save seeds for future gardens. Garreau concluded, “When we come out of this terrible pandemic, we will have learned to be stronger. We will be invincible.”
Pastor Turns Food Desert Into a Garden
“Pastor Richard Joyner had to preside over too many funerals for members of his congregation”, the Missionary Baptist Church in Conetoe North Carolina, “due to diseases related to poor nutrition” shortly before the Pandemic arrived.
“One day, he decided to do something about it.” He decided to plant a garden. God ignited his imagination and his energy. He planted a remarkable garden, for times like these, that just kept growing, involving kids and older members in his black congregation. In fact, his initial community garden grew into 20 plots around this interracial community, “including a 25-acre farm run by his nonprofit Conetoe Family Life Center.” He also added their own beehives.
Pastor Joyner decided to expand his gardens and farm into an agricultural training program teaching youth in his church how to grow food and learn about the importance of good nutrition. Remarkably, he enlisted 80 kids to work in the gardens. The farms produced 50,000 pounds of fresh produce a year. Whatever isn’t given to those in need was sold to local restaurants to raise scholarship money for those in the church. Since 2007, this project has enabled families in this poverty-stricken community, before COVID, to cut their food bills in half.
Invite Your Friends to Join You in Growing Hope in Times Like These
How can you and your congregation join those who are reaching out? How can you make sure that kids where you live have enough to eat and a roof over their heads? These immediate needs seem to be getting worse. Then focus on the longer term. How can you and your church enable your neighbors to become more self-reliant as we seek to overcome this painful Pandemic recession?
You and your congregation may not have 25 acres to farm. However, I suspect you might have some land at your church where you could start a new garden in 2021. If you have enough land and you are in a neighborhood where people are out of work or they are seniors with limited means, you might consider inviting them to join you in planting your community garden.
A small house church in Bellingham, WA met in a home that didn’t have any land for a garden. So they got innovative and offered neighbors, with limited means or restricted health, to not only plant a garden for them in their backyard but also semi-dwarf apple and plum trees. Then they periodically stopped by their neighbors’ to check to see how their gardens are growing and offered a little help. I wouldn’t be surprised, during this pandemic time, that they aren’t offering to do a little shopping for their older neighbors as well.
How is God igniting your imagination in times like these to make a difference in the lives of those that are having extreme difficulty keeping their kids fed or a roof over their heads? How is God igniting your spirit to become an instrument of hope?
Let us know how you respond. We would like to share some of your creative compassion with other readers to encourage them to act too!
Above photo: © Christine Sine