Food bank appeals to Missouri Baptists for help
By Allen Palmeri
August 12, 2003
COLUMBIA – Peggy Kirkpatrick gets tears in her eyes as she tells the story of a father, a mother and two small children found living in a storage unit, using a corner of the space as a bathroom.
"This did not happen in a Third World country but right here in central Missouri," said Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Central Missouri Food Bank, which includes 31 counties and 120 agencies/food pantries in central and northeast Missouri.
"Thankfully, God sent someone to help these people and a local church showed the love of God through their actions. Unfortunately, there are thousands of other people in Missouri, nearly half of them children, who need that kind of love for they are physically hungry and hurting."
More than 90,000 people in this area live in poverty, Kirkpatrick said.
"Daily I am overwhelmed with emotion as we struggle to feed ‘the least of these,’" she said. "In the past two years, the number of people we have provided food for in central and northeast Missouri has increased by 30 percent. With state budget cuts, plant closings and layoffs, there is no help and hope for so many struggling families unless the body of Christ steps forward."
Kirkpatrick is calling for "a supernatural intervention in order to continue to meet the need in our service area," she said. Although the food bank is classified as a secular hunger relief network, the more than 2,000 churches in the service area represent the key to victory, she said.
"While we are a secular organization by definition, our heart is toward this ministry for the poor," said Kirkpatrick, a member of Midway Heights Baptist Church, Columbia.
The food bank’s budget for 2002 was $1.3 million. About $50,000 was raised by the faith community, according to food bank development associate Steve Miller, who also serves as associate pastor for Carpenter Street Baptist Church, Moberly.
"My prayer is that the $1.3 million would be funded by the churches," he said.
If four people from each church gave $6.08 per month, or $73 annually, more than $580,000 would be raised. That would enable the food bank to take advantage of a matching grant, Miller said. It would also enable Christians, and particularly Missouri Baptists, to more practically obey the teaching of James 2:15-17 by feeding the hungry, Miller said.
"Jesus told us to take care of these folks," he said.
More and more Missourians are falling into the category of working poor, food bank officials report. An estimated 70 percent of those who were serviced by the food bank last year were classified this way, Miller said. Typically they are mothers who are single and working, or fathers who find themselves working two or sometimes three low-paying jobs.
A total of 70,700 fewer people were employed in Missouri in January of 2003 when compared to January 2002, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. None of the neighboring states approached that number; the closest was Oklahoma with 18,300.
The Central Missouri Food Bank gave out 15.5 million pounds of food in 2002. By July 1 of 2003, the total was more than 9 million pounds.
"There are so many plant layoffs, factory closings, that the need has risen in this area," Miller said. Donations have not kept pace.
Miller has told food bank officials that he is an ordained preacher of the Gospel first and a food bank employee second. They, in turn, have worked with him on that, he said. His duty is to get the word out within the faith community that feeding the hungry is something that Jesus advocated — something close to his heart.
"My focus is to see people saved," he said, speaking directly out of his primary role as preacher as opposed to his secondary role as food bank employee.
Kirkpatrick, in her role as executive director of a secular food bank, must draw similar distinctions, but even she is not opposed to applying the words of the Bible to the challenges of her workplace. The federal poverty guidelines that she works with on her job tell her that more than 90,000 of her fellow Missourians are officially, certifiably and perhaps even tragically poor. These are her neighbors. They are your neighbors, too.
"Like Christ, we turn to God in this hour of need and ask Him what we should do to continue to feed the poor," she said. "Of course, the answer is in the Bible. A boy gave all he had – five loaves and two fishes. Jesus so blessed the effort with a miraculous multiplication of the food that 5,000 people were fed and 12 baskets of food were left over.
"I truly believe God is giving His church a tremendous opportunity today to do what we are biblically commanded to do – to feed and clothe the poor. When we do that, we can share the love of Christ to those who do not know Him. Oh how I weep and pray that we will answer His call."
Missouri Baptist churches who are willing to help should contact the food bank through its Web site at www.centralmofoodbank.org. Kirkpatrick and Miller, who are Missouri Baptists reaching out to their brothers and sisters in the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), may be contacted at the food bank at (800) 764-3663.
Columbia is one of six food banks/networks in Missouri associated with America’s Second Harvest. Others are located in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, St. Joseph and Sikeston.
The Central Missouri Food Bank is one of only three in the entire America’s Second Harvest network of more than 190 nationwide that distributes food free of charge to its agencies/food pantries. This has been its policy since October of 1993, Kirkpatrick said.