Bishop Amy Current was privileged to serve as a panelist at the Bread for the World: Conversation with the White House on Tuesday, August 31, 2021. During the online gathering Bishop Current and other faith leaders from the Midwest shared with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships about poverty and hunger in our midwestern communities.
During this event, Bishop Current was able to advocate for Iowa communities and hunger-related issues unique to the rural, suburban, and urban centers in Southeastern Iowa. She highlighted in particular two programs, Tapestry Farms in the Quad Cities, and the Bellevue Community Cupboard as examples of food programs in our state and ways in which direct action and funding from the Biden and Harris administration could make a difference to feed more people in Iowa.
Full text of Bishop Current’s comments and more about these two programs
Thank you for the opportunity to share in this conversation today as we lift up the needs of the most vulnerable and give voice to those who lack daily bread. I serve as Bishop of the Southeastern Iowa Synod in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. My synod covers 38 counties in Iowa where there are 137 worshiping communities spanning open country rural in food desserts, to micropolitan cities and urban centers all facing food insecurity. Compounding issues of generational poverty, situational poverty, the ongoing pandemic, and natural disasters such as the derecho now a year ago make the realities of hunger worse. Our synod’s shared mission is to Share the Good News of Jesus Christ and I hear story after story about congregations sharing the Good News through food shelves, free lunch and dinner programs, weekend backpack programs for children – there is a long and beautiful tradition of anti-hunger in our synod and in the ELCA. We do not lose hope in working toward a reality where these efforts are no longer necessary as we believe that daily bread should not be a privilege for a few but healthy nutrition should be available for all. I give thanks for the efforts of President Biden and Vice President Harris and Congress so far to listen and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable and register my plea to continue this important work for the sake of children in my synod, state, and country but also throughout the world.
About Tapestry Farms
Tapestry Farms is a nonprofit urban farm system that generously invests in the lives of refugees resettled in the Quad Cities (Iowa and Illinois). The program works to eliminate barriers refugees experience to housing, education, medical and mental health care, work, food, transportation, community, and citizenship. Tapestry Farms reclaims underutilized land in Quad City neighborhoods experiencing food insecurity, putting the skills and talents of refugees to work so that all are abundantly fed.
Tapestry Farms grows intoryi (kind of sounds like in-door-ee). It’s also known as African eggplant, it’s a white veggie, about the size of a Roma tomato. It’s grown at Tapestry Farms for lots of reasons. The most important is that it is a taste of home for African refugees who live in our community. Thankfully, it grows wonderfully in the Midwest. They grow other veggies that remind many African refugees of home, such as corn, Roma tomatoes, red potatoes, onions, spinach, beans, and eggplants. One of the most important crops is called lenga-lenga. It’s highly nutritious. It’s bagged in garbage bags and deliver to households from Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda. In Iowa, unfortunately, lenga-lenga is known as a weed – some call it pigweed or amaranth.
Ann McGlynn, who serves as Executive Director says of the food provided by Tapestry Farms;
“Food is at the core of who we are. But we see, over and over again, how important it is to feed the hearts and souls of the people we serve. We love. We walk alongside. We are here with people for the long term. We celebrate, and we mourn. To heal trauma, to find home again, it is important to have food like intoryi and lenga-lenga. It is equally important to know you are deeply, and unconditionally cared for.”
Biden-Harris administration can help Tapestry Farms in its mission to:
- Invest in BIPOC and refugee farmers – heavily – through access to land, equipment, markets.
- Invest in local food systems – heavily – especially in marginalized communities.
About Bellevue Community Cupboard:
Hunger and poverty in rural Iowa look like this. A small outdoor free food cupboard lovingly placed in front of a private home, within a neighborhood, filled with canned and non-perishable food. The homeowner noticed the cupboard was being emptied day after day, and one day had a child approached her while she was filling the cupboard asking if she ever put diapers in it, his mom and sent him to ask. Within that exchange, the Bellevue Community Cupboard Project (BCCP) was born and another cupboard was built and placed near the mobile home community.
BCCP developed its core values: 1. To remove the stigma of food insecurity 2. to improve the health of our community by providing healthier options than many food pantries, and 3) to reduce food waste.
On April 13th, 2021, they moved from a free cupboard to drive-up food sharing, starting with 10 grocery bags prepacked fresh produce, high-quality protein options, milk, and eggs. Thirty-one cars showed up and 123 total people had received a week’s worth of groceries. In a community of 2100 people. Since then, BCCP serves an average of 25 families every Tuesday and Saturday who drive up and receive the food we have to share. Serving 961 people so far in August.
One of our first customers came with his head down. He said he didn’t qualify to go to the local Food Pantry, but that his wife had been in a car accident and was hospitalized with internal bleeding and they had three children. While she was in surgery, they discovered a cancerous tumor. Three weeks ago, this man showed up with a woman sitting in the passenger seat. She was thin and worn-out looking. She told our volunteer who came to their car to have them fill out their intake form, “I am finally well enough to come and see who has been feeding my family for the last four months.”
Poverty in Rural Iowa looks like families who are one paycheck away from “qualifying” to access the local food pantry and obtaining food stamps. It looks like widows who are 75 and 77 living together, one of them likes milk and the other does not. It looks like an intellectually challenged woman who comes with her walker and her little dog each week saying that all the fresh vegetables are helping her glucose numbers come down.
The Biden-Harris Administration can help the Bellevue Community Cupboard by providing funding to hire and retain staff in rural food programs. Rural volunteers are exhausted. Rural people are hard workers and care about their neighbors and are willing to donate food and time when they can. But there are only so many people to go around. Resources can help educate about food insecurity and human contact, and recruit a few people to shop for healthy food, we could meet the goals set forth by the BCCP for many years to come. And maybe, someday, there will be less food insecurity, healthier people, and less food waste in rural communities.
Thanks to Rev. Erik Hanson, Steve Panther, Rev. Trish Decker who are active in poverty and anti-hunger advocacy work with Bread for the World throughout our synod, and Rev. Shannon Witt, who coordinates the Bellevue Community Cupboard Project and Ann McGlynn who is the Executive Director of Tapestry Farms.
If you would like to become more involved in anti-hunger, anti-poverty ministry, and advocacy in the Southeastern Iowa Synod contact Val Harlynn, [email protected]