Arizona has the fourth highest poverty rate in the nation. In practical terms, this means that one out of four children in Arizona are at risk nutritionally. They are not eating well or sometimes not at all. Our public school system is partially meeting this need by feeding most school children at least two meals each school day and sending them home with food bags for the weekend.
What most of us who are well fed don’t think about is this: what happens to these children during school vacations like summer break and Christmas break? How do these children eat? The sad answer is that some don’t.
In 2012, Christ Church of the Valley piloted an initiative to address the need to feed school children during the two week Christmas break. Research was done in cooperation with Phoenix school districts, a plan was implemented, and some kinks worked out. The next year, CCV shared their plan with other Phoenix churches and the Family to Family Food Box distribution program was born.
Through Family to Family, churches partner with local schools to provide two food boxes for each needy family identified by the school administration. Each box is filled with 23 staple items, which can help sustain a family of four to five for one week. Church members are asked to personally shop for these 23 food items and fill a box or two or more. The contents of each box cost approximately $35.
This Christmas season, First Christian Church (FCC) is distributing 500 Family to Family Food Boxes, impacting 250 families through the following schools in our neighborhood: Mountain View School, Sunnyslope Elementary School, Desert View Elementary School, Maryland Elementary School, Rose Lane Elementary School, Richard E. Miller Elementary School, and Sunnyslope High School.
We know that food programs like this are only temporary solutions to hunger. Contrary to what the billboards say, which we’ve all seen around our own city, feeding people does not end hunger. Addressing and dealing with the roots of poverty for hurting families is the only way we will ever put an end to hunger.
Long term, as those who claim to follow Christ, we must begin dealing with the roots of poverty in our communities. But short term, people still need to eat. So while we roll up our sleeves together to chip away at the difficult root causes that keep people poor, we will also share our personal resources with the at-risk families in our neighborhoods and help them feed their children.
Building rapport with our local schools and handing a couple of food boxes to a very thankful family with a smile and a warm “Merry Christmas” has become a highlight of our FCC Christmas season.
Photos by Karl Ingraham
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