Over the next several weeks, the hard work of a Nebraska Disciples congregation will come to fruition, literally, as it makes a significant contribution to feed the world’s hungry.
In Firth, Neb., farmers from the Pella Reformed Church are harvesting acres of corn, wheat and soy beans. East Lincoln Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lincoln, Neb. has been their urban church partner, providing up-front funds to help with the costs of growing the crops. The farmers have donated their time, know-how and equipment. When harvested, the grains will be sold and the proceeds sent to the Foods Resource Bank (FRB) to fund a sustainable, smallholder, food security program in the developing world.
Kenneth W. Moore, regional minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Nebraska, has spent time educating congregations that working through the FRB is one way they can address world hunger.
"It’s been a little frustrating that I haven’t had more takers but we have had a growing project that has been real successful with East Lincoln Christian Church now for six years," said Moore.
It’s believed that nearly 1 billion people live below the international poverty line, earning less than $1.25 per day. Among this group, many have problems obtaining adequate, nutritious food for themselves and their families. As a result, millions of people in the developing world are undernourished. They consume less than the minimum amount of calories essential for sound health and growth.
Non-governmental organizations such as the Foods Resource Bank have made it possible to support and educate smallholder farmers in developing countries on effective and sustainable agricultural practices for their unique environments. Specifically, FRB engages U.S. farmers and agribusinesses to raise funds for village-level programs around the world that focus on food security and resource development. The goal is to make those communities self-sustaining.
Week of Compassion, the relief, refugee and development mission fund for Disciples, is an ecumenical partner with the Foods Resource Bank. In 2009, WoC provided grants totaling $12,690 — $3000 of which was money designated by Disciples congregations, to 11 growing projects. Thanks to the support received from WoC and others, these projects were able to generate a total of $350,362.68 for FRB overseas programs.
Last year, the two Nebraska congregations were able to make more than $65,000 from the crop, which went toward an agriculture program in the Dominican Republic that will support 22,000 people in growing their own food. That money is helping to provide seed, tools, sustainable irrigation solutions and training for Dominican farmers. The churches expect that the program will benefit from what is anticipated to be another bumper crop this year. The crop is grown on land that surrounds the Pella Reformed Church.
"They donated the money from the crop to FRB for use by its member organizations, like Week of Compassion and Church World Service, to fund the programs overseas," Moore said.
East Lincoln’s congregation raises funds before the crops are planted to help get the process started. The crops have had a lot of other help along the way. "We’ve been very, very fortunate that almost everything has been donated, including the fertilizer and the labor. What we’ve been able to raise from the project, and raise at East Lincoln, and the support money that we got from Week of Compassion went along with the amount we got when the grain elevator wrote the check to FRB for the Dominican Republic program," Moore said.
After the crop is gathered in, folks from the two participating churches have sometimes enjoyed a meal together to celebrate the harvest. A couple of years ago folks from East Lincoln traveled down to Firth to ride along in the combines as the crop was being harvested. Some years they have closed the gathering with a time of worship in which the crop is dedicated. Other years East Lincoln has invited the farmers to join them for a meal during their Wednesday night youth program, letting the city kids get to know their rural farmer friends.
"I keep trying to get the word out and tell the story about this project … the amount of difference that this project is making in addressing world hunger," said Moore. "I am hoping that we will find some other congregations that will want to start their own growing projects."
The churches will decide which FRB program will benefit from this year’s crop after the harvest. Ron DeWeerd, director of development for the Foods Resource Bank, said FRB is strongly focused on agriculture policy as it pertains to food aid. The money from crops or livestock that a congregation raises for FRB, can go directly to a denomination’s programming account within FRB, a specific FRB program, FRB’s general programming account (to use where most needed overseas) or to support the administration of FRB.
"I am fired up about East Lincoln," said DeWeerd. "The work that they are doing for FRB is empowering the poor to be better able to feed themselves. This is another aspect that adds dignity to people’s lives and allows us a chance to contribute in a major way."
For more information on FRB, visit www.foodsresourcebank.org or call 888-276-4FRB.
By James Patterson