LaCount Anderson serves with his wife Anna as CBF Field Personnel in Eastern North Carolina and is part of the Together for Hope network, CBF’s rural poverty initiative. Learn more about the Anderson’s ministry at http://www.morethancans.org.
For months we began seeing our food distribution line forming daily. This bi-weekly line began to grow until we noticed that there were people lining up down the street and around the building every day. People of all ages, from 80 years old to young teenaged mothers, would line up to receive whatever they could to feed their family. Our total boxes distribution grew from 50 per month to an astounding 700 boxes of food distributed on any given month.
To further add to the anxiety we have a small staff of two people to administer this program. The hot temperatures and the extreme cold added to the frustration of those lining up; many were angry and defensive by the time their turn had come to receive the food box. Our staff was becoming more and more discouraged as they dealt with the endless line of people desperate for food.
As we began to pray about our dilemma I became aware of an idea that was working in Georgia. The Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative in Atlanta was founded in 1994 to aid people who were in need. As I learned about their process of distributing food it became apparent that this idea might work at our center in North Carolina.
We organized all of those people into six different groups that we now call “food co-ops.” Twice a month, we meet together with a group of people inside our building for fellowship, a short educational time and the assembly of food boxes for everyone who attends the food co-op. Instead of two staff members, we have involved the members of the food co-op for the administration and assembly of the boxes. Members now pay a small two-dollar membership fee to belong to the group. The fee is collected at each meeting by one of the co-op administrators.
We serve coffee and doughnuts and friends gather for fellowship. They sit and talk, and hear information that is informative and helpful. The training includes a short devotional and a piece of information relating to good health or nutrition. The members gladly pay the fee as it helps them feel like a part of something, paying their own way rather than receiving a handout. One lady gave testimony last week that this is the only time she sees other people and she looks forward to co-op days. I also heard recently of get well cards being sent to members who are in the hospital.
Now, as people receive the food they need, they don’t wait in extreme temperatures. They are not embarrassed to be seen in the line. They smile as they prepare their own food boxes. And they experience belonging and dignity.