By Kim Riemland
(UMNS) - United Methodists who are meeting at General Conference know
that just outside the walls of the convention center live some of the
very issues they are trying to tackle: homelessness, hunger and
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Bishop Donald Ott (left) hands a sack of potatoes to Bishop Marshall (Jack) Meadors during a Potato Drop,
On April 29, bishops and delegates used their morning break to step outside their meetings and do something about those issues.
stood shoulder to shoulder in the convention center’s loading zone and
transferred 50-pound bags of potatoes from a tractor-trailer to a
Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank truck. The shipment is expected
to help feed 120,000 Pittsburgh-area residents.
excess and slightly flawed potatoes were not considered "perfect
enough" to sell in stores, but the Society of St. Andrew and the
Commission on United Methodist Men arranged to have H. Smith Packing in
Maine ship the potatoes to Pittsburgh, instead of throw them away. Other
United Methodists participating in General Conference in Pittsburgh
were asked to fast for one meal and donate money to help cover the
shipping cost of the potatoes.
Donald Ott of Wisconsin was among those who helped transfer the heavy
bags. Ott, who works on the Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty,
says it’s important to address the issue of hunger with "hands and
heads." He believes United Methodists should participate in the direct
service of feeding the hungry, as well as exploring systemic issues,
such as legislation that affects poverty in America. He wants his fellow
bishops - and the whole church - to put on "a new set of glasses."
that, when you put them on, enable you to see the poor and the
marginalized and the children who always seem to get the short stick,"
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
United Methodist bishops and other volunteers help unload 45,000 pounds of potatoes.
Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank serves 350 member agencies in
the Pittsburgh area. Like most food banks across the country, it has
seen the need for food assistance rise, while donations drop.
a constant struggle. We’re down to about a month’s supply, and that
makes us a little nervous," said Anne Hawkins, chief development officer
of the food bank.
The potato donation is appreciated, she said.
Society of St. Andrew is a nationwide, ecumenical, nonprofit
organization that salvages fresh produce that might otherwise be wasted
and distributes it to agencies that feed the hungry. The Society of St.
Andrew and the Commission on United Methodist Men have partnered in
creating the Hunger Relief Advocate network, which has delivered more
than 5 million pounds of food to the nation’s poor.
every city where a General Conference is held, United Methodists
schedule a way to serve the people of the host city. The conference is
the denomination’s top legislative assembly, meeting every four years.
Riemland is a freelance producer and correspondent for United Methodist News Service.