Cathy Bryant of Liverpool has seen firsthand the growing number of hungry in Central New York.
“I work at a pantry in the city, and I’ve noticed a steady increase in the number of people we serve,” Bryant said. “There are hungry people in this country. As many blessings as we have, no one should go hungry. We tend to focus abroad, and it’s not that we shouldn’t, but we can’t overlook what’s happening in our own little piece of the world.”
That’s why Bryant and Trinity United Methodist Church on Morgan Road in Clay are participating in the United Methodist Church’s Hands4NY event, an effort to feed one million New Yorkers between June of 2011 and June of 2012.
“Hands4NY is an year-long project by the Upper New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church to take a stance against hunger in our local communities,” said Rebecca Kohler, marketing associate for the conference. “On Oct 15 and 16, we are having Impact Day events all over Upstate New York that will help feed thousands of people in our communities.”
Kohler said the idea came from an effort to better align the mission of the church with its actual, practical efforts.
“This idea came about as we examined who we are as a people,” she said. “The Upper New York Annual Conference was created in 2010 and we wanted to live into our vision and mission ‘to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places.’ In partnership with our international general agency United Methodist Communications, the Hands4NY project was born.”
It seemed natural to make Oct. 15 and 16 Impact Day, as that is the day when many churches and other organizations across the region will be taking part in CROP Walks to raise money and awareness for world hunger. Here in the north suburbs, walks will be taking place at 12:30 p.m. at Oneida Shores and 1 p.m. at the Salt Museum at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool.
The conference chose to focus on hunger because it is not only a basic human need, but a basic spiritual one, as well.
“Our most sacred moments in the Bible revolve around food: in Exodus, there was manna; one of Jesus’ temptations was food; and there would be no sacrament of Communion without the last supper,” Kohler said. “It is both very human and very sacred to break bread with our neighbors. In this age of indifference and information overload, the hunger for food and the hunger for the spiritual and sacred is still very important.”
Trinity United Methodist will begin its Impact Day efforts Oct. 13 and 14, when it will distribute fliers and bags to the smaller neighborhoods across from Morgan Road asking for canned goods and other nonperishable items. On Mission Sunday, Oct. 16, church members will walk the streets of the neighborhoods – Cherrington East and Waterhouse Landing – and collect the food residents have left out. The goods will then be tallied up and added to the totals collected by the entire Upper New York Methodist Conference.
“We keep track of the pounds,” Bryant said. “A certain number of pounds equals one person fed. The goal is to feed one million people in New York state by next June. This is our effort to help with that.”
Bryant said the church opted to take on smaller neighborhoods in order to make the effort more manageable for its congregation, many members of which are in their 70s and 80s.
“If we’re going to be the ones walking all over and picking up all of the food, we wanted to make sure we could handle it,” she said. “Something like Fairway East is just too big for us. That’s a huge effort. We may to another one of these before the year is over; we try to do a couple of Mission Sundays a year.”
After all of the food is collected, church members will return to Trinity United Methodist at 1 p.m. for lunch and celebration services. Then the food will be divided up and parceled out to three area food pantries – Trinity Assembly of God on Route 31, Evangelical Redeemer Church on Morgan Road and United Church of Christ in Bayberry.
“Those three pantries feed more than 100 families in our own neighborhoods,” Bryant said. “That’s why we chose to do this activity. I think a lot of people don’t realize how many people in our neighborhoods are going hungry.”
Numerous other Methodist churches will also be participating in Impact Day activities, more than 40 events are scheduled throughout Upstate New York. To find out if your church is participating, visit hands4ny.org
As for Hands4NY, it has already fed 500,000 people.
“It’s very promising,” Bryant said. “But that doesn’t mean hunger will be wiped out. We have to keep working at it as a community.”
In addition to the drive on Oct. 16, Trinity United Methodist will have a bin in front of the church in which donations can be dropped any time until the 16th. Bryant asked that all donations be left in plastic or metal bins so they are protected from the elements. If you have questions, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.