“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Jesus took seven loaves of bread and a few small fish, and when he had given thanks, he gave them to the disciples, and they in turn gave them to the people. Afterwards, the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. --Matthew 14:13-21
Is the point of the parable that Jesus possessed magical powers which demonstrated his godly nature, or was feeding the hungry his overriding concern -- and what is more godly? And what does hunger have to do with us? In a nation notorious for obesity in one-third of the population, who but derelicts and the mentally ill could possibly go hungry? As Bill O’Reilly of FOX News has famously reassured us, “Food is cheap!”
One in every six Americans face hunger today. The Feeding America nationwide network of 200 local food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs provide free groceries for low-income families, emergency food assistance for at-risk populations, and summer meals for children.
In Kershaw County, Nicolas Julian, director of support services for the United Way, is developing programs to effect positive change in people’s lives. In this case he’s also feeding the hungry. Julian, with a degree in psychology and a professional background working for the S.C. Department of Corrections, knows his territory. As the child of a single mother in upstate New York who worked two jobs, he says his family depended on churches and pantries for much of their food until they could get on their feet.
Julian’s initiative, the Mobile Market, about to start next month, will concentrate on the rural poor, starting with feeding 110 residents a week. As Julian says, “The problem of hunger in Kershaw County goes beyond all preconceptions for those of us with more than enough to eat. According to the Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, almost 3,000 households in Kershaw County live farther than walking or biking distance to food resources and do not own a vehicle.” He emphasizes that 20,155 county residents are classified as low income with low access to food. “That’s almost one-third of Kershaw County,” Julian says. “We can safely assert that 6,182 of our school children, more than half of the students in Kershaw County, 58 percent of whom have free or reduced cost lunches, struggle to eat three times a day.”
Julian and the Mobile Market will be focusing on several groups: homebound seniors; the independent disabled; children; and those with such emergency needs, such as fire and eviction. The Market will supplement SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- or Food Stamps) benefits. Seventeen percent of our residents currently receive food stamps equaling approximately $1.3 million a month. “Every resident using food stamps also requires an additional 40-90 lbs of food per month,” Julian says. For more information about the Mobile Market or to contribute time or money, call Nicolas Julian at the United Way office at (803) 432-0951 or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Julian has also set up an email account for volunteer correspondence: email@example.com.
Nicolas Julian joins a widespread outreach in feeding the hungry here. Since 2009, Food for the Soul, a United Way partner agency, has been serving, on average, 51 free home cooked meals four days a week to anyone in need. In 2013, for example, Food for the Soul served a total of 13,737 meals to a daily average of 67 people. Mt. Moriah Baptist Church has been feeding the hungry in our community for more than 25 years and delivers lunch to about 50 shut-ins on Mondays and Saturdays. The Council on Aging, with its Meals on Wheels program, with 32 volunteers under the direction of Director Bruce Little, served 35,000 meals last year, operating meal sites in Camden, Lugoff, and Bethune which serve 70 seniors from two to five times weekly, and deliver meals to 170 people who cannot get to the sites.
Lack of food for seniors can be caused by a variety of reasons: little to no income; no family support; mental issues; no transportation; theft and/or abuse; and Alzheimer’s or dementia. LoveServeGive, representing several small churches, feeds an average of 68 people hot meals on Sunday afternoons in the old BI-LO shopping center.