Loaves and Fishes, the feeding ministry at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Gallipolis, has been offering nutritious meals and spiritual nourishment to their neighbors since 1995. The church is located in poverty stricken Gallia County, where 21.4% of the county’s 30,000 people are living below poverty level. Many in the community are on public assistance. St. Peter’s outreach program has become a consistent resource in the community.
“The Loaves & Fishes Ministry provides a way for our congregation to give support to our community,” writes Carolyn Anderson, St. Peter’s treasurer and feeding ministry organizer. “It is a project in which everyone can contribute. Those that are unable to actively contribute can and do support the ministry by food and/or monetary donations. This has had a unifying effect. It is a concrete/common goal.”
Under ordinary circumstances, the ministry feeds 300 plus people the last Sunday of every month. Collaborating with several other churches (4 denominations!) and local businesses, they serve up a sit-down family-style community meal offering fellowship as well as good food in the parish hall. Volunteers delivered take-out meals to handicapped and elderly residents in the nearby subsidized apartment complex.
Then the pandemic changed everything. Acutely aware that providing a meal to neighbors in need was more critical than ever, this outreach ministry found a way to adapt. Dinners are still prepared, but all meals are now served as take-out. To guarantee safe food preparation, parishioners from St. Peter’s are now preparing all meat dishes themselves. The number of volunteers who pack the meals is limited so that they can maintain strict social distance guidelines. Despite all challenges this determined parish still serves about 250 meals to go while also delivering 100 meals to residents in the subsidized apartments. An ECM emergency Covid-19 grant helped with escalating food and container costs.
The church was blessed with some spectacularly beautiful sunny Sundays this Summer. They took advantage of the weather in June to stage a cookout to go – they had 3 grills going. Last month they served chicken salad sandwiches, chips, watermelon, cantaloupe, and brownies. Nothing lifts the spirits like a kind word and a picnic to-go.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me food,
I was thirsty, and you gave me drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me”
Material contributed by Caroline Anderson, September 2020