LSS Hunger Ministry Lifts Needs of Seniors, Pennsylvanians with Disabilities
The Rev. Angela Hammer of St. Paul, Penryn, shared the experiences of her congregation’s feeding ministry in a state Capitol press conference in support of proposed increases to minimum nutrition assistance benefits for seniors and Pennsylvanians with disabilities.
Hunger leaders in all seven Pennsylvania synods have reported increasing need in our feeding ministries, particularly among seniors, as supply chain failures and the war in Ukraine force up prices for food and fuel. LAMPa, as part of the Pa. Hunger Action Coalition, is advocating for special relief for seniors and persons with disabilities in the form of increased minimum benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The current monthly minimum is $20. Learn more and send a note to your lawmakers here.
Hammer, whose congregation sits in Lancaster County, a major agricultural producer, stood with leaders from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Aging and the Department of Human Services, as well as the state’s food bank networks. (Watch the press conference here.)
You can read Hammer’s remarks below. Please consider adding the experience of your own neighbors in a note to lawmakers.
“I am the pastor at St. Paul Penryn Evangelical Lutheran Church, located in the village of Penryn in north Lancaster County. The village of Penryn is home to 963 people. The median age is 48 years old, and 70% of the
population earns under $100,000 per year. Though Lancaster County is a major food producer, we continue to see food insecurity, especially within our senior and physically disabled population.
The food ministry at St. Paul Penryn currently consists of a food pantry box located in front of the church building that is accessible 24/7. More expansive food options such as fresh meat, eggs, milk, and vegetables are
available every Saturday morning and Wednesday evenings in a pantry located inside the church building. Our ministry project includes a community co-op vegetable garden and chicken coop. The vision is to provide a space for people to grow their own food and/or for the food produced to be an extension of the food pantry.
We serve 40-60 members of the community monthly, averaging three full bags of non-perishable items, fresh meat, eggs, milk, butter, and bread. Among those we serve, 75% or more are senior citizens and/or senior
citizens with physical mobility restrictions and disabilities. Consistently, we have two families, who, because of their mobility issues, have neighbors come to our pantry on behalf of those who cannot venture out.
In learning the stories of those who frequent our pantry, we have discovered that utilizing the free food pantry helps to offset the climbing expenses of both health care and fuel costs. We have learned from many people that high medical bills and medical expenses coupled with the excessive cost of heating fuel and gasoline have put a greater strain on those with limited income, making it more difficult for those who are already food insecure to have access to healthy food. The truth is, a staggering amount of people, in fact, almost 100% of the people who use our pantry
have said they need to choose between paying fuel costs and medical bills or having food. We have also worked closely with people who have found themselves homeless for a period of time and have relied solely on our free
food pantry. In a county that is a major producer of food, it seems morally and ethically corrupt that people struggle to afford healthy, sustainable food.
The proposed $15 increase if the SNAP program is a step in the positive direction to help support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. $15 can buy local fresh produce from our farmers. $15 can help someone purchase staple items such as bread and eggs from the grocery store. A $15 increase in the program tells the people you are called and elected to represent that you hear the struggle, and you are willing to respond.
Lutheran congregational food pantries and community meals feed thousands of hungry families across our commonwealth every month. Even in areas where employment has risen, many are finding the need remains
steady, with a growing percentage of seniors seeking charitable food. Those whom they serve express their gratitude and report being worried about the fall — when they will have to manage more expensive heating bills on top of higher gas and food prices.
Our hope as a small church serving a large community of senior citizens and people struggling with the reality of our current economy, is that we can place nutritional food in the hands and stomachs of those in need, share our gifts with the community, and demonstrate that regardless of one’s current life situation that our feeding ministry is available to all people. The need is undeniably real. The struggle is impossible to overlook. The church is striving to meet people wherever they are to share God’s love and grace that has been freely given. In St. Paul Penryn’s case – and many other churches – feeding ministries are a real and tangible way to share and show love, but we cannot meet the need on our own. I urge our lawmakers to act with compassion. The need is far greater and deeper than
most of us truly realize. “