“Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
As an avenue for participants to receive necessary physical nourishment, Christian Appalachian Project’s Grateful Bread food pantry (in Mount Vernon, KY) functions as one of the possible avenues through which the Lord’s Prayer can be answered for neighbors in need.Once a month, program participants can come into Grateful Bread food pantry to pick up a supplementary food box for their household, typically holding about 40 pounds of groceries chosen by participants from the pantry’s changing selection of options.This service can offer some relief to those who, like the early Christians, are praying for food one day at a time.
Although the “daily bread” Jesus told us to pray for can extend to include all the physical necessities of survival, the receiving and sorting of literal bread does constitute a regular part of life as a volunteer at Grateful Bread.Three days a week, volunteers receive, sort and store donations of bread and bakery products from Panera Bread, Wal-Mart, and Flowers Bakery. Personally, one of my favorite regular duties as a volunteer at Grateful Bread is sorting donations from Panera Bread into gallon-size freezer bags for eventual distribution to program participants.This task usually takes a chunk out of a volunteer’s day, but it is a valuable opportunity to spend time getting acquainted with one’s fellow volunteers, whether by engaging in discussion or by simply listening to some music while enjoying the smells of fresh bread. Breaking bread together has always been a sacrament of life in Christian community; serving bread to our neighbors in need is another crucial way to take part in the body of Christ.
Literal bread is just one small part of the sustenance available to participants when they come to Grateful Bread; volunteers also help with getting donations of all manner of food items from Wal-Mart and God’s Food Pantry (a larger food bank located south of Mount Vernon), as well as donations from individual donors seeking to support those struggling with hunger in Rockcastle County. Generally, a different selection of food items is available for participants each month, and volunteers are able to get acquainted with program participants as they browse together through the selection of grocery options currently available to choose from. Just as the choices on our shelves are sometimes unexpected, participants are often pleasantly surprised by an opportunity to meet new volunteers, and volunteers’ pre-formed opinions regarding Appalachians in need are themselves likely to be transformed in unforeseen ways by interactions with the unforgettable personalities that walk through the pantry door.
In addition to the normal food box program for low-income Rockcastle residents, Grateful Bread also serves the elderly in particular through the monthly distribution of government commodities, and schoolchildren in particular through the “backpacks” program (providing bags of food for students to eat on the weekends, when school lunch is unavailable). All of these programs are provided gratis—free of financial obligation for participants. In turn, participants often show gratitude to volunteers and pantry staff, although we play only a small part in the network of persons and organizations that make the pantry program possible.
Volunteering to serve a year, using our bodies to serve Christ, is a way to thank God for the nourishment on which we depend. It is by grace that we are allowed to share the grace of God with others made in the divine likeness; for this bread, both spiritual and bodily, I am grateful.
Benny is a Long-Term Volunteer serving in Rockcastle County. If you want to learn more about volunteering with CAP email firstname.lastname@example.org.