I spent an hour Wednesday afternoon looking at the faces of hunger, and it's sad, very sad.
Springfield, Missouri's hungry are children and infants; the elderly, people on oxygen, the blind. They're single people and families, black and white--and all poor.
I joined three members of Christ Episcopal Church, who were working a two-hour shift at Crosslines, a ministry of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks.
Christ Church supports council ministries from our parish budget, with special gifts and offerings, including canned goods on Sundays at the Holy Eucharist, and with hundreds of hours of service each year. (I serve on the Board of Directors of the Council of Churches.)
On Wednesday we put together food items, ensuring that each individual or family, had a balanced diet for three days. We packed brown paper grocery bags with hot dogs, hamburger, and chicken for protein--until it ran out--vegetables, including fresh ones from home gardens; canned goods, even a few candy bars. We teased that we'd keep some of them for ourselves, but we gave them away.
The food sacked, I handed out the bags at the window, where people waited for their orders. Every person said thank you.
Qualified people may receive food from Crosslines three times each year. The limit is because the ministry has to stretch its food supplies more and more these days, given that hunger is rising in the Ozarks and nationwide.
According to a 2008 hunger study, 742, 486 Missourians live in poverty. The poverty rate in Missouri is 13 percent. We rank 21st among the states for poverty. Some 310, 000 Missouri households are "food insecure" or 12.9 percent of all households. And another 118,000 households are "very low food secure." (For more, go to: http://www.masw.org/programs/hunger.php )
These statistics are from 2007, the latest I could find, and were compiled well before the current Great Recession, which began in December 2008.
Looking at the hungry people at Crosslines on Wednesday, I was saddened, saying to myself, "This shouldn't be--not in a country as rich as ours, not in a city as generous as this one."
But I was also heartened that Pam, Kathy, Carol, and many other local Christians are at Crosslines five days a week, reaching out to others with Christ's love and doing what our Lord Himself did--feeding the hungry.
Thanks be to God.