A survey of food pantries released by the Michigan Fitness Foundation in February 2017 [i] shows that a majority of emergency food panties are run by faith based organizations, almost 70% of those have been providing emergency food for more than 10 years and 25% of those have supplied emergency food to those that need for more than 30 years.
The cohesive nature of hunger, food access and faith based organizations is clearly nothing new, but in October 2016 at the Michigan Good Food Summit (Hosted by the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems), a group of faith leaders held a breakout session to discuss how faith based organizations could work together and organize themselves around the topic of food and faith.
Three organizations presented on their activities around food and faith:
- Hazon Detroit, an organization that is working to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community.
- Plainsong Farm in Rockford, MI, is a Christian CSA (community supported agriculture) that considers itself a faith-based experiment growing food that strives to provide environmental education, faith formation and young adult residency.
- Access of West Michigan in Grand Rapids has a mission as a faith-based leader in linking congregational, individual, and community resources to eliminate hunger and reduce the impact of poverty in Kent County, Michigan.
All three organizations shared their activities, and faith-based motivation around eliminating hunger and ensuring better good food access to those in Michigan.
The presenters facilitated a conversation around how faith based organizations engage in food activities and the effectiveness of the engagement. It was proposed that working together may help increase the effectiveness of the work. Attendees in the breakout session contributed to a lively discussion and many agreed to continue the food and faith conversation.
[i] Emergency Food, Gardening, and Nutrition Education: A Survey of Michigan Food Pantries. Lansing, MI: Michigan Fitness Foundation, 2017.
Jude Barry is the Assistant Director of the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS). MSU CRFS has a vision for thriving economies, equity and sustainability for Michigan, the nation and the world through food systems that are rooted in local regions and centered on food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable.