By Julie Christiansen
While going through the Healthy Church Initiative process at Mount Zion United Methodist Church, one of the things we discovered was that our mission and service projects were all over the place. While all were good causes, by trying to support too many things, we felt we weren’t effectively supporting anything. We also wanted to find a way to serve people right in our neighborhood so we searched for an area where we could make a difference.
Mount Zion is across the street from Craig Elementary School and we were working to establish a closer relationship with them. In the fall of 2012, we were approached by the Polar Star Rose Hill #79 Masonic Lodge, also located in the area. The lodge members wanted to start a weekend food program for children in need at Craig School. They had received approval from the school and were looking for a partner with facilities and volunteers to shop and pack each week. The school suggested that they contact us. Our search for a local, ongoing mission project was over!
School staff identified children in need and registration forms were sent home for parents to complete. Food was purchased and volunteer packers were lined up. The first bags were packed on April 26, 2013. On that first day, we served nine children (eight students and one sibling).
Bags are packed with food items including two breakfasts, two lunches, two snacks, two fruits and two drinks for each child. These are guidelines established by similar programs around the country. Dietary restrictions, either religious or health-related, are observed for several children. Items consist of oatmeal, cereal bars, pop-tarts, mac & cheese, ramen noodles, peanut butter crackers, applesauce, fruit cups, juice boxes, and similar items. All require little or no preparation.
The program does not operate during the summer but started up again in August 2013. In the spring of 2014, Parkway Northeast Middle School was added. In November 2014 we began serving students at Ross Elementary and look forward to adding McKelvey & Bellerive Elementary Schools before the 2014-15 school year ends. We are currently preparing food bags for over 150 children each week.
The Kids’ Weekend Food Program is supervised by Tara Mooney and David Reiling. Volunteers from Mt Zion and the Masons pack the bags each week.
For more information about the program, contact the church office
at email@example.com or (314) 432-4251.