As you know, we have long talked about ways to expand our impact in addressing hunger in Philadelphia. Given our space constraints we are all aware that significantly expanding direct service operations at 313 Pine Street is not an option. One way to approach this that we have discussed at parish meetings is to “franchise” the food cupboard to other locations in the city. Christine Neville and I have been exploring potential partnerships with other churches or organizations as well as a mobile food truck. We have (thanks to Christine) a concrete proposal for a mobile food truck and are seeking grant funding to cover the costs ($60,000). We will proceed with this project only if we can bring in enough grant money to fund it.
We have been in conversation with two churches; the Free Church of St. John in Kensington and St. Gabriel’s in Logan/Olney/Feltonville, and also with St. Barnabas’ Mission, an Episcopal Community Services shelter for women and children. Our conversations have focused on what their programs might look like as well as what St. Peter’s support would involve. Thanks to significant grant money last year and decreased food costs this year, the food cupboard is in a good place financially. After accounting for our expenses and assuming we get grant funding at the same level next year we have about $10,000 that we can use to establish or support partner programs. Bearing that in mind, I am pleased to report that we are ready to go with the Free Church of St. John and with St. Barnabas and are deep in talks with St. Gabriel’s. So here is what all that looks like.
The Free Church of St. John is an Episcopal mission church in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, a neighborhood devastated by poverty. For the last few years the church has not had a clergy person, but is run by a (fabulous) lay missioner named Ben Johnson. Despite the fact that it is a small community, it is lively and Spirit filled. They have an after school program that meets every week day, a very small food pantry that operates once a month, an active youth group, feed the community dinner every Wednesday, have a small community garden in the backyard of the parish house, and have church services every Sunday-led by lay people with a visiting priest coming twice a month to celebrate Communion. It is an amazing place. The leadership at the Free Church is committed to expanding the food cupboard to serve people weekly; as Ben puts it, “I eat every week so I figure everyone else does too”. What Ben has is a lot of help- he can get volunteers from his neighborhood to unload trucks and to distribute food. What he does not have is money to purchase food or a relationship with Philabundance, which is where we come in. The Food Cupboard leadership has determined that we can dedicate $3000 to financial support for the Free Church, and additionally we are working with them to help them become a Philabundance member. We have also done some consulting work re: best practices and have assured them we are available to continue doing so. This financial support is for one year only (2015), and in considering whether we can renew it for 2016 we will evaluate both their program and our financial capability.
St. Barnabas is a ministry of Episcopal Community Services which provides housing for women without homes and their children. It also helps them find a path to stable, secure housing. The mission is in a part of West Philadelphia that struggles with poverty and its related issues. St. Barnabas has a very small, very restrictive, food cupboard (for example people can only get food every 90 days and need to be referred by the City of Philadelphia) and the leadership wants to expand the number of clients they serve, the type and amount of food they offer and to decrease the barriers to receiving food. We have already done some significant consulting (Kat, Christine and I) and plan to continue working closely with them. In addition, we will be dedicating $3000 to help them purchase food for 2015.
Finally, we are exploring a relationship with St. Gabriel’s Church which is located at 101 E. Roosevelt Blvd. and serves the Feltonville, Logan and Olney sections of Philadelphia. Our former assisting priest, the Rev. Carol Anthony, is the Vicar to this small but vibrant, multicultural congregation. Like the Free Church, St. Gabriel’s is small but has a huge heart and is engaged in serving its community in many ways. They serve lunch to 100 people every Saturday and they have a small food cupboard serving 15-20 people per week. This would be more of a complete partnership- meaning that we would help them set up a food cupboard serving 100-150 people per week, provide guidance and presence (mostly Kat Dunne, Kerry Wagner-Woodward and Christine Neville, though we would be looking for some key people to be involved), provide funding for the first year ($4000) and provide help applying for grants. While we have not yet developed a “contract”, should we proceed with the partnership we will have a definite framework defining exactly what we would do and for how long. In addition we will have benchmarks or goals for them to meet as we go along, i.e. by 6 months in they have applied for X number of grants. We will keep you updated as our conversation with St. Gabriel’s continues and we welcome your feedback on this or any other aspect of food cupboard operations.
All of the above is possible because of your dedication to and passion for feeding God’s people and finding ever new and creative ways to do so. It is a blessing and privilege to do ministry with you.