By: Christa Meland
Through its Hamline Church Dining Hall, Hamline Church in St. Paul has been serving hungry Minnesota State Fair-goers since 1897. But this year, the United Methodist congregation is serving up something new: For every meal sold at the dining hall during the 2014 State Fair, the church will donate the cost of a meal to Feed My Starving Children.
“When you go to Feed My Starving Children and pack a meal, you feel like you’re really making a difference,” said Rev. Mariah Furness Tollgaard. “One thing that Hamline Church does well is food. We thought, ‘what if we did something crazy and gave away part of our proceeds’” to feed the hungry.
Hamline’s pledge to donate the cost of a meal for each one sold aligns with the Minnesota Conference’s Million Meals Marathon, an initiative through which the state’s United Methodist congregations aimed to collectively pack at least 1 million meals this year through Feed My Starving Children. (That goal was exceeded in early April, and Minnesota United Methodists have together packed more than 2.3 million meals to date.)
Tollgaard said members of Hamline have packed meals on a number of occasions—and feeding hungry children is a cause that resonates with them. The church participates in many mission projects that involve food, including serving at Loaves and Fishes, volunteering at a food shelf, hosting a monthly food distribution program for families in need, and providing snacks for an after-school program.
“This [State Fair dining hall effort] is a way to focus our efforts on reaching out as Christ’s hands at work in this world,” Tollgaard said. “A common need that everybody has is to eat…As far as we know, there aren’t any other organizations at the fair that are trying to do this kind of good and raise money for someone besides themselves.”
In addition to donating money to Feed My Starving Children, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that provides life-saving meals to people who need them most all over the world, “we also see this as an opportunity to promote the ministry of Feed My Starving Children,” Tollgaard said. “Part of our mission and impetus is raising awareness.”
Information about the organization, an Advance Special of the United Methodist Church, will be available to those visiting the dining hall—and dining hall volunteers will wear buttons that say “Thank you for feeding a hungry child.”
Hamline, the fair’s longest tenured food vendor and one of just two church dining halls still in operation, has set a goal of donating 18,000 meals during the 12 days of the fair. Each meal through Feed My Starving Children costs 22 cents, so that would equate to nearly $4,000.
Diane Krueger, who has been a member of Hamline Church for 15 years, is chair of Hamline Church’s social justice and missions committee and was involved in the congregation’s decision to donate proceeds to Feed My Starving Children.
“The dining hall is all about hospitality and feeding people,” she said. “In many respects, it connects with the mission of Feed My Starving Children.”
Krueger said God’s call to heal a broken world resonates with her—and “anytime we can do that by example or exhibit that, it seems like we ought to take those opportunities.”
Before the 2014 State Fair began on Aug. 20, Hamline Church was in the news because of the intriguing new food that its dining hall is debuting this year: Jello Salad Ice Cream made by Izzy’s. Unlike most State Fair food vendors, Hamline Dining Hall provides a place for families to sit down and have a meal together while also taking a break from the heat. The dining hall offers a range of menu items but is known especially for its ham loaf.
Tollgaard said the fair provides an opportunity for Hamline to connect with its mission field and facilitate an opportunity for visitors to enjoy fellowship.
Six-hundred volunteers are needed for dining hall shifts throughout the 12 days of the 2014 State Fair. Although many of them come from Hamline, the shifts are open to anyone and some still need to be filled.
Minnesota United Methodists are encouraged to stop by the dining hall, and those who bring a church bulletin will receive $3 off the dinner special. The dining hall is located at 1667 Dan Patch Ave. (two blocks from the main entrance).
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church