GenesisHOPE is partnering with the Southeast Michigan Synod of ELCA on a multi-faceted food security initiative known as Metro Detroit Food & Spirit. As a result of the partnership, GenesisHOPE is leading the design and development of the SEMI Synod of ELCA Emergency Food Program. The goal of the program is to build the capacity of a coalition of congregations to R.E.A.D. The “ELCA World Hunger works to address the root causes of poverty and hunger through a comprehensive approach of relief, education, advocacy and development,” and we have adopted the same methodology (ELCA, 2014). Planning began in April 2014. The 18-month project plan began in October 2014 and will end in March 2016 with the dissemination of “A Study of SEMI Synod of ELCA Emergency Food Programs” report and adoption of a regional strategic plan to support the coalition of congregations.
Emergency food providers currently lack the capacity to meet the shift from emergency to chronic usage, and few provide outreach services to alleviate clients’ need for emergency food to meet monthly shortfalls. According to Feeding America, “Emergency food from pantries is no longer being used to meet temporary, acute food needs. Pantries are now a part of households’ long term strategies to supplement monthly shortfalls in food.” The shorter the amount of time that clients’ SNAP benefits last throughout the month, the more likely a client is to visit a pantry every month. This speaks to the use of food pantries as a coping strategy for many clients who are receiving limited SNAP benefits or who simply can’t make ends meet with existing resources (Feeding America, 2010).
Collaborating to change the way emergency food is obtained and provided, improves food pantry operations, uses more client-centered approaches, offers more nutritious food, and provides opportunities for shared learning. The creation of a new coalition also raises visibility of hunger issues in the community and is associated with an increase in both clients and food donations. Additionally, feeding the hungry is often about more than simply feeding the hungry. The expansion of a pantry’s capacity results in an increased demand for other client support services. A coalition of emergency food providers and social service agencies, doing work together that they could not do alone, demonstrates a focus on the collective benefit to the community as a whole.
Initial Survey Results