By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Roughly 30 Shenandoah County citizens met Tuesday in Woodstock to hear from faith-based representatives on how to aid the area's fight against hunger.
Connie Fauber, President of Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries, opened the discussion at Emanuel Lutheran Church and had each individual introduce themselves. Members of churches in Woodstock, Mt. Jackson, New Market, Toms Brook and Strasburg described the various ways their congregations contribute to stopping hunger in the county.
A majority of the churches contribute to food banks and pantries, as well as the Lighthouse Grocery Store and Luke's Backpack.
Luke's Backpack is a program that allows students, who meet certain qualifications and receive parental consent, to take a backpack home over the weekend during the school year. The backpack is filled with enough food for six meals and a few snacks for that child. Food is both donated and acquired through federal funding, since the program is in conjunction with the school system.
It is currently offered at the three county elementary schools, but Fauber said that Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries hopes to spread it to middle schools and possibly preschools in the coming school year.
Fauber also described a new program to Woodstock called "Rising Stars" that will not only feed children, but will also allow academic enrichment to carry into the summer.
The names of children involved in Luke's Backpack was given, with parent permission, to Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries so they could reach out to students. However, Fauber said the program is available to any child aged 8 to 12.
"Rising Stars" participants will go to Emanuel Lutheran Church for four weeks starting July 16, and receive breakfast and lunch, academic mentoring and religious enrichment as well. Fauber said since the program is a pilot one for the town, the number of students will be capped at around 25.
Max Finberg, who works in the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, gave attendees an idea of the country's outlook on hunger.
"There are 1 in 7 Americans who don't have enough to eat," he said. Finberg talked a bit about SNAP, what used to be referred to as food stamps, as well free and reduced lunches and nutritional standards in schools.
Finberg said that while about 22 million kids qualify for free or reduced lunches, only one out of every 10 of them are reached during the summer.
"In my 20 years working in D.C. with different programs, I haven't once met anybody who said they want to depend on the government," he said. Because of that mentality, Finberg feels that faith-based partnerships and charities are essential to a community's well being.
Those who attended Tuesday's meeting where asked where to go from here, and the reply was unanimous: forward.
"If we can all come together, we can do so much more," Fauber said. She added that with more connections made throughout organizations in the county, comes more opportunity for grants to help efforts like food banks and pantries.
"Take that loaf of bread that Christ is holding, and spread it out," Fauber said, concluding the meeting.
For more information on Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries, associated programs, and how you can help, go to valleylutherans.wordpress.com or contact Connie Fauber at email@example.com or 540-436-3449.