By Sara Lewis, with input from Karmel Shields and Sally Brennand

Even as we are celebrating the Harvest and Thanksgiving, there are people going hungry in our community. For many of us within the OUUC congregation, we feel this calls us to directly serve those less fortunate.

Not knowing where or how families will access enough food to prepare meals is considered food insecurity.  The pandemic has increased the number of families experiencing hunger (maybe for the first time) and are now simply running out of food on a regular basis.  The food supply chain has also been disrupted.  School closures mean breakfast and lunch programs, still available at school locations, may not be readily accessible due to distance or family work schedules.  Unemployment or working from home puts additional burden on obtaining and preparing meals.

We can all agree that hunger is a scary thing!  There are many organizations ramping up to help keep food accessible.  OUUC congregants have great relationships with many of these organizations, including the CCS Community Kitchen, Thurston County Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, weekend backpack program, and meals for Interfaith Works and Hope Village.  These organizations, with a little extra support, are capable of reducing food insecurity in our community.  Food Lifeline, for example, states that for every dollar received they can provide enough food to feed a family of five for thanksgiving.

The pending holiday season places an extra burden on family food budgets. It is no surprise that the food bank numbers are increasing. Additionally, many of our local nonprofits that provide food depend on volunteers, and many have lost regular volunteers as COVID has caused many to step back.

Some OUUC members who continue to volunteer at the Community Kitchen include Sally Brennand, M’Eliz Maata, and Sheila Arendt. They prepare and serve Monday’s lunch at the Kitchen, assemble sack meals for the teens at Rosie’s Place and for folks in motel quarantine. There is also a team that prepares or serves dinner on Wednesdays, preparing meals in to-go containers for Kitchen staff to pass through the door to guests, who must now unfortunately eat outdoors in the elements.

While demand for meals at the Kitchen has remained steady (between 100-200 per meals depending on the time of the month), the Kitchen has doubled production due to new outreach efforts. The Kitchen is receiving grants for temporary staff who prepare and deliver hot meals to people living in homeless encampments and other temporary housing. This is a county effort to decrease movement around our area and reduce the spread of COVID.

Another effort is with Homeless Backpacks, a Lacey based charity that has been purchasing and assembling bags of ready to eat food for middle and high school students experiencing food insecurity. Before COVID they provided 7 school districts 600 bags of food to distribute on Fridays so kids would have food on the weekends. With COVID again volunteer teams vanished but they also faced 3x demand. Things have stabilized this fall at 1300 bags per week with new teams bagging the food. Sally Brennand reports that Wednesday OUUC ladies including Julie Rosmond, Shelley F, Paula Allison, Sheila Arnedt, and Sally bag small items for the assembly teams to utilize. “We sit, work, and visit in our masks – a sort of modern day sewing circle.”

There are many ways to help!

With the OUUC food donation drive-through event on Sunday, November 15 3-4pm, we hope to generate extra food supplies for our local food banks.  Your generous donations of food, funds and volunteer efforts will ensure that all families will have access to holiday meals. The weekly update on Tuesday included a list of food items most needed.

Contact Sally Brennand or Jo Ann Young to volunteer with Community Kitchen or providing meals at the Interfaith shelter. Coordinate with cook Turtle at the Community Kitchen to provide baked goods, or with the Senior Center to volunteer to deliver meals and food bags. And, of course, all of these community organizations can use financial contributions.

Our first UU Principle, the Inherent Worth and Dignity of All, calls us to build a bigger table, one where no one goes hungry. As we celebrate our harvest and our abundance, welcome the stranger to your table, metaphorically, by supporting one of these efforts.

A Blessing for the Harvest
The apples fell, generously, all about
The pumpkins in the fields burst and spilled their guts for us
The beans and the corn gave their seeds that we may eat
None asked if we were worthy, for nature includes us all
From each as they are able; To each as they require
The gift is passed and all are blessed