Beyond handouts, even the food boxes I suggest in a previous post, the opportunity for community cooperation and connection is a valuable option. I list a few below.
- Community Gardens
Instead of simply handing out free food in any form, why not set up a quid pro quo style relationship in which persons are expected to participate in a farm cooperative and receive a crop share for their work. Many churches have large unused fields which could easily become a large tract of garden space. Some churches might even choose to invest in livestock such as chickens, goats, cows, etc. for dairy, eggs, and meat. Along with this, as many people are disconnected from agriculture in their communities, there is an educational opportunity. Teaching basic gardening, livestock, and harvesting skills provides people with a sense of accomplishment along with food. If someone is unable to work, a volunteer might work for the share to give to them. This is particularly important for the elderly and disabled.
If you have people who are unable to commit the time or unknowledgeable about gardening, the Agriculture Extension office, local 4-H Chapter, local Master Gardener Program, and local FFA chapter may be able to help, and will often do it for free or a small donation to their program.
- School and Community Partnership
Going with the community garden idea, the church or community could partner with the local school (getting both school and Extension or USDA approval if needed) to provide the fresh vegetables for meals and snacks at school. The cafeteria workers are often great cooks, they are simply given very basic frozen and processed foods to work with.
- Canning and Cooking Classes
Similar to the gardening problem, people often do not know how to cook fresh food and are afraid to learn from YouTube videos, or prefer guided learning from teachers. Many churches have large fellowship halls and some newer churches have large institutional kitchens. Basic knife skills, food prep skills, simple recipes with hot plates, and what to keep in your kitchen. Many people in local churches have these skills, but if they do not, the groups I mention earlier, plus local Home Economics teachers and restaurant chefs might be willing to teach.
These are three options. There are many more including hunters for the hungry, hunter safety courses, food exchange, fishing trips, and even mushroom gathering trips. The goal of all this is community, learning, and nourishment in an interconnected fashion.