*Story also featured on page 21 of the June 2021 Missouri Methodist magazine.
Responding to concerns of hunger and poverty has been a long-time commitment of Festival of Sharing. The response has taken many forms throughout the years- from dividing bulk rice and beans and filling family food boxes to packing meals for Rise Against Hunger and raising money for farm animals through Heifer International. As we recognize the various ways hunger and food insecurity impact communities in Missouri and beyond, we are called to opportunities for growth and development in our responses. This spring, Festival of Sharing invited agency partners in Missouri to apply for Growing Access Grants. The funds aim to support projects, programs, or services that address hunger, food insecurity, or nutrition. Many great applications were received and respond to local needs through education, hands on experiences, and expanding nutritional options. A total of $6,400 was distributed across 9 agencies serving various populations across Missouri.
The awardees include Food for Morgan County, Migrant Farmworkers Assistance Fund, Christos Center, Hillsboro Food pantry, Cornerstones of Care (KC), Loaves and Fishes of Maries County, Whole Health Outreach, Victory Mission, and LifeWise StL. Festival of Sharing is excited for the recipients. They are passionate about community members of all ages having access to nourishing food. They demonstrate how education can be more than knowledge; it’s empowerment and inspiration. They are investing in their communities and we are honored to provide support and encouragement for their work. The programs range from teen cooking classes and mobile food pantries to container gardening, increasing protein intake for elderly, and supporting the nutrition of at-risk teens. A partnership with MU Extension will provide a diabetes self-management class, local pork will be distributed, and low-income families will be led through self-sufficiency activities. Scott Walker, President/CEO of LifeWise StL, expressed gratitude for the funds to help supply food to their families. "It will be used to buy fresh produce. We strive to give our participants access to healthy and fresh food options which tend to be more expensive than canned food (high salt content) and other processed food options. We value the partnership with Festival of Sharing and appreciate the work you do.”
We are hopeful the opportunity will present itself to offer the Growing Access Grants again next spring. Most of our in-kind gifts are shared with agencies through the Sharefests in the fall. We are grateful for the monetary donations received throughout the year helping us to extend this supplemental gift to the agencies this spring. For those interested in supporting this response, checks can be written to MOAC with Festival of Sharing- Missouri Hunger in the memo line. They can be mailed to Festival of Sharing, 3601 Amron Court, Columbia, MO 65202.
It’s time for our May Agency Highlight! This time we’re cruising down to the lake area for Share the Harvest Food Pantry and Clothes Closet in Camdenton. About 17 years ago a group of volunteers noticed a need for food for youth and their families, thus the pantry began as a small operation. As the pantry grew, the decision was made to add the thrift store to help sustain the pantry resources. The pantry also has a garden on site that brings fresh produce to families and they provide financial assistance for a variety of needs like medical or electric bills. During the pandemic, the number of neighbors they serve stayed about the same and decreased slightly in the summer as other local organizations offered services and resources. Share the Harvest really appreciates the blankets and dental kits- especially during flu season and the pandemic.
This year we’ve highlighted a variety of terms connected with poverty and development work. We thought it might be helpful to take a moment and recap what we’ve learned. January highlighted adverse childhood experiences (ACE) which are potentially stressful or traumatic events in childhood, such as abuse or neglect. ACEs impact children’s development, physical health, and ability to form healthy and stable relationships. ACESs are preventable through actions that strengthen economic support to families, promote social norms that protect against violence, connecting youth to caring adults, and more. February covered social capital, or the functioning of social groups through interpersonal relationships, shared sense of identity and understanding, and shared trust and cooperation. Social capital is a positive asset that every community has and can be used to strengthen resources and opportunities. These two terms reflect the different impacts relationships can have on our well-being and way we live and work in society.
In March we discussed housing cost burden, which is when someone spends more than 30% of their income on housing costs. If they spend more than 50% of income, that person is severely cost burdened. This is important in Missouri because of the number of households renting (33.2% of Missouri households) with an average rental cost on a 2-bedroom apartment ranging from $646-953. In April we reviewed asset poverty, or a household’s inability to access wealth resources that are sufficient to provide for basic needs for a period of three months. And then in May we defined living wage as the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs (needs include food, housing, and other essentials such as clothing). If we think about the relationship of concepts like housing cost burden, asset poverty, and living wage, we start to uncover the complexities of poverty that make it challenging to overcome.
We hope that through reviewing definitions and concepts, we can start to recognize connections and opportunities to make a difference in our communities.
Exploring the past and the present of Festival of Sharing.