“Just One More seeks to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ by caring for Milwaukee’s poor in spirit, providing regular nutritious meals for the hungry, and offering those who suffer with addictions a faith based recovery program for creating a fulfilling and God-centered life.”
– From the Just One More Ministry website
FEEDING THE HUNGRY
Written by Lynn Connolly
It all started from a simple beginning: in October of 2008 the Meal Ministry Outreach at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa delivered just one box of bread to a church that was feeding the hungry.
How things have changed! In 2016, Just One More Ministry (JOM) “rescued” more than 500,000 pounds of food that would otherwise have been thrown away, and redistributed that food through more than 50 community partner organizations and congregations. They now operate with a staff of five from a new warehouse facility in Wauwatosa and have the support of 250 regular volunteers.
The magnitude of hunger in America is staggering; Feeding America estimates that in Milwaukee County, between 20 and 30 percent of our residents experience food insecurity—being without reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable, nutritious food. This includes families, the elderly, children, and students in our own and nearby neighborhoods. At the same time, by some estimates nearly half of all food grown, processed and transported in the US goes to waste.
JOM’s mission is to provide the link between the good food that would otherwise go to landfills, and the hungry in our community, and they are an inspired group! In 2016 they provided an estimated 3100 meals a week to local residents through their community partners.
I have found it to be an impressive and enthusiastic operation and also a lot of fun to work with. Since retirement I have become one of those “regular” volunteers, so have gotten some experience with what it’s like to serve at the facility.
If I am volunteering on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday morning, this is a food-sorting shift. Sometimes there are pans of leftover food from catering companies to be transferred to foil pans so that the caterers can get their containers back. This food is then refrigerated until it can be used for family meals. Then we wait for the truck to arrive. Volunteers have driven the truck to various grocery and superstores (Wal-Mart and Target for example) to pick up donated food. When the truck arrives, we help unload, sort the food by type (fruits & vegetables versus pantry items, for example) and help weigh everything before it is all stored in walk-in coolers or sorted further to be put on pantry shelves. The majority is fresh fruits and vegetables, but there is bakery of all kinds, deli items, meat and bottled/canned goods. All of this is provided to community partners for their meal programs and other distribution to the hungry in our community. I have truly been amazed by the hundreds of pounds of food that come in the door every time the truck arrives.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings JOM packages family meals for either 2 or 4 with an assembly line of volunteers. We stand at a long table and put meat, potatoes or other starch, and a vegetable into foil pans, which are then double wrapped and frozen for distribution to families through community partners. The last time I was there, we assembled 165 meals for 4 people, and 20 meals for 2; these meals would eventually feed more than 600 people. The pre-packaged meals allow a family who needs food assistance to eat a healthy meal at home at their own table, rather than at a meal program and it also helps those who don’t have the ability for whatever reason to cook a meal from scratch. JOM is the only organization in Milwaukee that provides these pre-assembled family meals.
JOM does many more things at their facility. Any fresh food that can’t be used is provided to an organization for composting. When Lake Park volunteers served at the facility recently we helped to move clothing that will be sorted and distributed to the homeless, and also organized a storeroom of non-food items such as paper goods, light bulbs, cleaning supplies, etc. that are available to organizations.
On their website JOM quotes Jesus, in Matthew 25:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was in prison and you visited me. And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
These words of Jesus provide JOM with the guidance and inspiration for everything they do. Lake Park has many opportunities as a partner to assist the community through this incredible ministry. In addition to communicating and supporting JOM’s need for onsite volunteers, we also hope to be in a position to distribute prepackaged meals, do some cooking and perhaps host an occasional meal at the church. The needs of our community are great and we have an opportunity to work with JOM to address them as a congregation.