My small group is currently reading the book, “Take This Bread” by Sara Miles. In this book, Miles describes her journey to begin a food pantry at her church in California. She also talks extensively about how she experiences communion in and through that food pantry.
Though I’ve found much of Miles’ words to be thought-provoking, this weekend, as I led the 30 Hour Famine for the students in my youth ministry, I found myself contemplating some of her ideas in a new light.
In Chapter 14, Sara talks about the excess in our food system and remarks that “So many thousands of cases of bread are about to be wasted. So many tons of fruit are waiting to spoil.” She goes on to talk about how she makes “bread out of injustice” by “feeding the hungry with the excess of an unfair system.”
Though noteworthy, this idea seems far removed from the life I lead. The problem of hunger is vast and overwhelming, so much so, that I cannot even begin to comprehend how a normal person can really make “bread out of injustice” on an on-going basis. Yet, last week, I met a woman doing just that.
Lois is a member of our church whose ministry is “food rescue”. She works behind the scenes and I suspect that few people are aware of what she does. I found out about her when another member of our congregation suggested I contact her to see if she could help us acquire food for our Refugee Family Fun Day, a service event that we did in connection with the Famine where we invited local refugees to our church for a free meal, raffle, and a variety of activities. This was our first time doing such an event and we had no idea how many people to expect, making it difficult to determine how much food we’d need. When I told Lois about it, she was eager to help us “rescue” the food that we’d need for our event.
As I began working with Lois, I glimpsed the scope of this woman’s ministry.
Several times a week, Lois makes a circuit of Glen Ellyn’s local grocery stores and restaurants, picking up expired food that can no longer be sold. She then takes that food to a variety of organizations that can use it including homeless shelters, adult day-cares, a ministry for teen moms, a Veteran’s home and others. She takes the excess from our “unfair system” and repurposes it so that those in need can benefit from it.
For us, she acquired chicken and ground beef, breads, and an assortment of produce. Anytime she found something that she thought we’d be able to use, she’d bring it to the church and leave it for me. Then on Saturday, she arrived with her truck, filled to the brim with pounds and pounds of food that would have otherwise been thrown out. She let us go through it & choose the items that we still needed, reminding me, “If you have extra, send it home with people. If you still have extra, call me & I’ll take it to someone else who can use it.”
Because of Lois, on Saturday, the excess of an unfair system fed some 40 refugees and gave them leftovers to sustain them for a few days longer.
It’s tempting after an event like our Refugee Family Fun Day to point to our youth, who organized, prepared, and led this event and recognize them as heroes for serving an often forgotten group who literally live in their backyard. In some respects that would even be accurate. After all, they fasted for 30 hours to raise money and awareness to fight world hunger, all the while serving locally. Yet, they did this during a one-time event for 30 hours.
In contrast, Lois has identified an on-going problem and rather than be overwhelmed by it, she’s chosen instead to say “It’s not OK for this food to go to waste. Not on my watch.” So day after day, week after week, she sacrifices her own time in order to rescue food from stores and restaurants and give it to those who can use it for good. In doing so, she constantly makes “bread out of injustice”. And for this, Lois is truly a hero.