A Little Leaven

One church’s recipe for meeting a need in their local community

Starting a new outreach ministry in a parish can be as simple as responding to a need in the local community with a few dedicated volunteers and a vision for service. Christ the Savior, a small Greek Orthodox church in Tennessee, had all the ingredients to start such a ministry. They knew that their northeastern region of Tennessee had been particularly hard hit by the economic crisis of the last several years. The local food bank reported that one in four people in the region live in poverty; nearly one in five adults and two out of five children in the area have food insecurity. This means many households have to choose between food and other basic necessities. The local food pantries and shelters saw a marked increase in clients over the past few years, some an increase of as high as twenty-five percent.

Little-Leaven

One of the needs of the food pantries in the area is for bread. Pantries rely on day-old bread donations from local grocery stores or must purchase bread when donations do not meet the need. Christ the Savior had many of the resources to match this need: two volunteers with certification and experience in baking large quantities of bread, a professional kitchen, and the commitment of parish leadership to meeting the needs of the local community. Only one thing was missing, a large capacity mixer.

With grant writing assistance from the Office of Parish Development of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the ministry received a grant for a 30 quart commercial mixer from the Virginia H. Farah Foundation and the Cottonwood Foundation. Both foundations make grants for the maintenance and growth of the Orthodox Christian church around the world. And so, Feed His Flock was born in January of 2013. In early May, its first delivery of 50 loaves of fresh bread was made to a local food pantry serving 1,200 families and a shelter serving 240 families per month. Each loaf of homemade bread is labeled with the Feed His Flock logo, letting consumers know that this loaf was made with love at Christ the Savior Greek Orthodox Church. Ministry directors John and Kathi Clement note that on more than one occasion, they have pulled up to the food pantry with their bread delivery just as staff are handing out their last loaf of bread. As pantry clients have gotten to know the delicious Feed His Flock loaves, there is a ripple of excitement in the food pick up line when the weekly bread delivery is made.

As of today, Feed His Flock has made and delivered over 8,000 loaves of bread. One of the factors that made this project compelling for foundation funders was that with a relatively small seed grant of about $5,000, the program is self-sustaining. The cost of baking a loaf of bread is only about 33 cents for ingredients. Feed His Flock receives donations from Orthodox Christians around the United States that has kept pace with the low production costs. At this year’s parish annual Greek Fest, the ministry sold loaves of bread with the Feed His Flock seal, both to raise money and awareness of the effort. (Learn more about supporting this ministry here.)

For Christ the Savior Greek Orthodox Church, the “little leaven” of a few dedicated volunteers and a seed grant was all that was needed to help them heed Christ’s call to feed the hungry in their community. What needs are there in your local community? What vision does your parish have to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned? “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

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