United Methodists Help Sack Summer Hunger

Christ UMC Farmers Branch packs food

Christ UMC Farmers Branch volunteers prep for another delivery run.

Christ UMC Farmers Branch, First UMC Coppell and Holy Covenant teamed with Metrocrest Services to deliver food to students  

Three United Methodist churches are fighting food insecurity for students in the summer months with door-to-door deliveries of groceries through Metrocrest Services’ Sack Summer Hunger Program. Christ UMC Farmers Branch, First UMC Coppell and Holy Covenant UMC are three of the eight churches involved in staffing the weekly deliveries. 

Families with students on the reduced lunch program may sign up with Metrocrest Services to receive a weekly delivery of food staples and fresh produce. Churches mobilize volunteers to pick up the food from Metrocrest Services and deliver it to the families every week in June and July. 

For Rev. Cheryl Murphy, senior pastor of Holy Covenant UMC, this affords an opportunity to connect with their neighbors and is a natural outpouring from a congregation rooted in justice and compassion.

“We want to be a church that is part of the community when people are visiting us for worship and every other day of the week,” Murphy said. “Meeting people as we deliver food on Saturday mornings is the beginning of that relationship! The opportunity to help children have food and snacks during the summer offers us the opportunity to meet our neighbors and to be a blessing to them.”

Sack Summer Hunger began as a ministry of Holy Covenant. In 2009, Rev. Jana Morales recruited a team of church volunteers to serve inside two nearby elementary schools. As they moved through the year, church members realized food on the weekends was scarce for students on the lunch program, so they began a weekend backpack food ministry. That evolved into a continued weekly food distribution during the summer months. What Holy Covenant called the Summer Lunchbox Program was then picked up by Metrocrest Services, a nonprofit in Carrollton, and has been going strong as Sack Summer Hunger ever since. 

Holy Covenant’s director of children’s and youth ministries, Laulie Eckeberger, coordinates Sack Summer Hunger at the church and recognizes the power in connecting with the community. “This gets us outside our walls and into our community in a real way. I’m glad we have the opportunity to knock on our neighbors’ doors and share some food, and maybe be an avenue for God’s grace in people’s lives.”

As Morales reflected on the roots of this food ministry, she noted this exact experience. “The goal was to take the church outside the walls – to meet people where they are – and develop relationships with the community with no strings attached. It’s a powerful witness when God changes lives as the Gospel is communicated in a real and relevant way … through our actions. I have always appreciated Holy Covenant’s deep commitment to truly being the hands and feet of Jesus in places where hope and healing are needed.”

FUMC Coppell with delivery bags

First UMC Coppell volunteers fill the bed of a pickup truck before making their delivery run.

Metrocrest Servcies' program is serving 777 children across Dallas and Denton counties this summer. The three United Methodist Churches deliver food to 276 of those students in 135 households. 

“The Sack Summer Hunger program is a lifeline for hundreds of families in our community,” said Caitlin Hardegree of Metrocrest Services. “The relief the program brings to parents, knowing they don't have to worry about how they're going to cover the cost to feed their kids during the summer while also paying rent and electricity bills, is evident. One parent shared that, ‘It helped me and my family keep food on our table and we are very satisfied and very thankful for the help ... GOD BLESS!’” 

Hardegree is inspired by the commitment of the volunteers that help make this lifeline possible. “Summers are busy, and there's a lot you can do on a Saturday morning. The fact that volunteers wake up early every Saturday morning during the summer to help ensure no child in our community goes hungry showcases the generosity and support our community has to creating a thriving community for all.”

Ann Love, a member of Christ UMC Farmers Branch and lead organizer of their feeding program, recalls how the church was involved from the very early stages of this effort. 

“In February 2012, Metrocrest Services determined that [Sack Summer Hunger] food distribution would be easier if there were five church sites where volunteers could make deliveries or families could pick up food. Christ UMC’s Local Missions Committee decided to participate in this project. The churches also agreed to help raise money for this. Christ UMC has designated communion offerings and has sponsored other fundraising efforts in the past to support Metrocrest Services and the Sack Summer Hunger project over the years.”

Christ UMC Farmers Branch served as a hub and reached out to other neighboring churches to get involved as the needs grew. During the pandemic, they transitioned to distributing food in a drive-thru program in their parking lot. 

“The families involved in the Sack Summer Hunger Program know that they can count on Christ UMC,” Love said. “Over the years, these families have participated in Vacation Bible School and other church activities. At our site, volunteers have come from four area churches. This means the churches and volunteers work together to help local families and children.”

Holy Covenant UMC packing food

Holy Covenant UMC volunteers have been delivering food since 2009.

Rev. Scott Holcomb-McLain, senior pastor at Christ UMC Farmers Branch, sees this as a key connector to their community and finds inspiration in this opportunity to meet Christ in their neighbors. “I am inspired by the people’s passion to be in ministry with the children and families around us as a sign of God’s grace and inclusivity. I’m also inspired by the longevity and dedication to continue to value and prioritize Sack Summer Hunger as a cornerstone of our summer local missions, and inspired that we truly see Christ in the faces of our Sack Summer Hunger families every Saturday.”

At First UMC Coppell, Community Food Program Coordinators Sally McCurdy and Julla Moohua oversee a team of 40-50 volunteers for the summer months. McCurdy notes, “Our mission is to help eliminate food insecurity for children in our community. During summer, when children are not receiving meals at school, we learned they were going hungry. We partnered with Metrocrest Services, who acquires the food and packs meals for the five days a child would be in school. Our volunteers deliver the bags of food, plus a bag of produce, to each child’s home on Saturday morning for the following week.”

Metrocrest Services provides nine weeks of food over the summer, and First UMC Coppell provides two extra weeks to bridge their children to the start of the Coppell ISD school year.

“Our volunteers have been serving in this program for years,” said McCurdy. “Their ongoing commitment year in and year out is awe-inspiring! Each year they sign up to serve children in our community that would otherwise struggle to eat regular meals during the summer. Many have come to know the families on their routes and help them with other needs when they can. These volunteers are amazing!”

Rev. Tom Palmer, senior pastor of First UMC Coppell, sees Sack Summer Hunger as one of the many ways the members live out their mission. “I’m blessed by the people that come up and pack the bags and make the deliveries. They’re not saying, ‘Hey look at me!’ They’re just wanting to serve. It’s part of living out our mission of growing in God’s grace, loving with all our heart, and serving with all our strength.”

Learn more about Metrocrest Services and how your church might get involved here

Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2024