Feeding the Hungry
Lately nationwide, a conversation has ensued about the value of food supplemental services, such as Meals on Wheels, after school programs, and other need based food services. The most recently proposed federal budget has cut all funding to these programs, saying that they are not providing proof that these programs are effective. Cut funding will hurt several Americans who will be left without the resources needed to get through the day, especially school age children and older adults. Church Women United has a Quadrennial Priority for 2016-2020 of ending and advocating for Childhood Hunger. We stand by this priority, not only because of the needs of children across our world, but because of our Christian faith.
We turn to Matthew 25:34 – 40:
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
From the words of Jesus to his followers “for just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” The commandment to feed the hungry in the words and deeds of Jesus is clear.
Just as clearly as Jesus fed the hungry and served the poor, so has Church Women United throughout the years.
In fact it was helping with food that was one of the earliest social policies that Church Women United, or at that time United Church Women, passed. In 1943, in the throes of World War II, church women made this statement about food programs for child refugees of the war:
“Food Program for Europe: Voted that the Executive Committee go on record as favoring the program of child feeding for Europe and authorize the president [Welcher] to write expressing this opinion to the President and other officials.”
It wouldn’t be two years later, after the war, that church women were at it again, committing themselves to reduce waste in their own food and to promote the rationing and price control of food so that those in hunger at the end of the war would be able to be sent food and rations. Called the “Food and Price Control” social policy, women voted as follows:
“We, the Christian homemakers of America, pledge to avoid waste in food in our daily lives and to sacrifice gladly a part of our share of scarce foods so that the health and even lives of millions abroad may be saved.
We urge our government to fulfill promptly its obligations under the UN relief and Rehabilitation Administration. We also pledge more generous support for the church agencies and reconstruction”.
To draw specific focus on some of the federal agencies currently being considered for drastic cuts in funding, I turn to the advocacy that Church Women United has given the School Lunch Program. Church Women United, along with The National Council of Catholic Women, the National Council of Jewish Women, The National Council of Negro Women, and the National Board of the YWCA were all sponsors and groups cooperating in a study to determine the effectiveness and need for a national nutrition program. They all studied and worked for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in 1966. They would continue to host studies and support the laws of the School Lunch Program, in 1968 and 1971. Supporting the school lunches and ending childhood hunger seems to have been a priority of Church Women United long before this year.
Church Women United is dedicated to living into our faith and providing food for the hungry, healing the sick, and serving the poor. May we all be recommitted to our CWU priority of ending Childhood Hunger, and working for a nation that feeds all the children of God. As our communities continue to reckon with how much we spend on food programs and other need based supplemental agencies, there is one important question to consider: “What Would Jesus Do?”