Church: Faith United
District: River Valley
Submitted by: Rev. Kevin Fox
by Christa Meland
What are the greatest needs within the Farmington community?
Last spring, Kevin Fox, pastor at Faith United Methodist Church in Farmington, set out to find the answer to that question so that his congregation could provide assistance where it was needed most.
Fox said one of Faith UMC’s strengths is its gift of service; members care about the community and if given a task, they will do it. They also were eager to become better connected to the city through a service project.
Fox began reaching out to various community groups—like the City Council and local schools—to determine the biggest unmet needs in Farmington. Hunger was repeatedly named.
So over the summer, members of Faith UMC, which averages about 75 people for worship, provided bagged lunches and backpacks of food to children identified by Farmington Elementary School as coming from families in need. During the school year, children in need receive meals at school, but lunches weren’t provided to them during the summer months—until Faith UMC stepped in. In June, July, and August, members of the church made bagged lunches after the first Sunday worship service and then distributed them each Monday at a summer program at the elementary school. And on Wednesday evenings, members gathered to stuff backpacks full of food for the weekend—which they distributed to children each Thursday. On Mondays, during the lunch drop-off, children would return the backpacks so that Faith UMC members could restock them for the following weekend.
“It gave people a sense of purpose and accomplishment,” Fox says of his congregation. “I kept stressing that they are being the hands and feet of Christ. I told them thanks to their work, seven to ten kids will go to sleep with something in their tummies. It was truly a God moment for all involved.”
Over the summer, Faith UMC provided more than 40 bagged lunches and filled more than 40 backpacks—and the church found a way to keep the project going when summer came to a close. At the start of the school year, Farmington Elementary informed families of its students that it was participating in a weekend food program for kids. Families in need can sign up to receive a bag of food each Friday that contains six single-serve items for a child to consume over the weekend.
The school year food distribution began in October, and to date, Faith UMC has packed 73 bags that the school has sent home with students. The church stopped using backpacks for the distribution, however, because it helped ensure that students receiving the food wouldn’t be easily identified by their peers (plastic bags are now used instead).
The food is donated by members of the congregation, and some choose to contribute financial donations rather than meal items. Each week, Fox’s wife, Ildiko Fox, makes a list of the types of food and amounts needed, and members sign up for specific items to purchase and donate. The church has committed to packing up to 30 bags each week, and over time, Fox hopes to be able to increase that number. He’s also started thinking about a toy drive around the holidays that would benefit children receiving the food.
Attached to every bag is a note that says “Packed with love by the people of Faith United Methodist Church,” along with the church’s contact information. Even if recipients don’t ever visit the church, they’ll know that the church cares about their family, says Fox.
“It is not about recognition,” he adds. “It is about simply doing what God calls us to do—love God, love our neighbor, and love the person who God created us to be.”
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church