Send Relief meal packing and ministry centers, part of the solution

By Josie Bingham

MISSOURI—Poverty and food insecurity walk hand in hand among various regions in the United States. But surely no one in the United States today is as poor or hungry as a person in a third-world country, right?

Yet according to the World Bank, 769 million people live on less than $1.90 a day which is equivalent to living off of $4 a day in richer countries like the United States. There are 5.3 million Americans who are poor by World Bank global standards, and several million people in the Mississippi Delta and much of Appalachia are actually living off of $2 a day.

Because of poverty in these areas, life expectancy is lower than in Bangladesh and Vietnam.

But Send Relief, with partnership from the North American Mission Board and Southern Baptist churches and volunteers around America, decided there was something they could do to push back poverty in these regions and more. Knowing the food poverty epidemic that plagues Missouri, Send Relief decided to be the part of the solution and launched their food packing events, with the first one aimed to produce one million meals for families in the St. Louis area.

“The greatest impact we can have is to help people in need of food,” said Sam Rowley, a St. Louis city business leader. “When we found out 930,000 Missourians are going to bed hungry or drastically rationing their meals, we knew we had to do something.”

Send Relief was able to partner with Sam Rowley and pastor of LifePointe Church, Rick Biesiadecki, and support them as they packed and distributed meals to thousands of Americans who were worried where their next meal would come from. The group rallied 5,000 volunteers who packed over half a million meals.

Soon, around 660,000 meals of non-perishable products like macaroni and cheese, apple cinnamon oatmeal and beans and rice would replace worry and provide nutrition to those across the community.

“As believers, we are called to care for the poor and for the hungry,” said president of Send Relief, David Melber. “When believers reach out to their communities and get their communities involved, there’s opportunity for gospel conversations and outreach while meeting physical needs. Send Relief is all about sending help and sending hope. Meal packing is one terrific way that happens.”

Since then, Send Relief plans to host their own meal packing event April 28 at the Send Relief Appalachia Ministry Center in Ashland, Kentucky. The center is entering the final phases of  construction and will serve as a large warehouse functioning as a distribution center for food and other supplies.

“Send Relief’s Appalachia Ministry Center will serve as a central point to quickly respond to distressed communities in Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio,” Melber said. “It’s easily accessible from the interstate, and we feel great about that location.”

“The twofold purpose of the ministry center is to engage the community and equip the church,” said Greg Teffertiller, Send Relief marketing director. “Every community is a little different. There’s no one-size-fits-all model of ministry. But the reason we established the ministry center in Ashland was to continue a ministry to that region that already existed and to enhance it. We want to invite people into that context and learn how to serve more effectively in their own communities.”

Josie Rabbitt Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board and Send Relief.

Published March 19, 2018