By Linda Harrod
Pastor, Island Grove UMC
NEW BERLIN -- Island Grove UMC received initial start-up funding of $1,000 from the Larsen Trust Fund in 2020 to begin assisting the children in the New Berlin School District who were struggling with food insecurity. Once Covid-19 reached the community and surrounding areas, and children were no longer in school, a portion of the Larsen Grant funds was used to assist the Pretzel (New Berlin) FEEDS Program that reached 30 families in the district targeted as food insecure.
Subsequent to assisting the Pretzel FEEDS program, Island Grove expanded its outreach program and constructed a micro-food pantry in Corbett Park, a local park in New Berlin that was selected for privacy as well as convenience for those needing food assistance. Funding to support the pantry came from the balance of the Larsen Trust 2020 funds, a $500 food pantry grant awarded the church from the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, plus monetary and food donations from church and community. In addition, the church held an Advent Food Drive in the month of December and also collected food and donations at the church’s outdoor Nativity display. Presently the church has approximately $2,000 of newly acquired funds on hand from the Advent and Nativity events in December to begin efforts in 2021 to supply the food pantry and other outreach projects.
The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that 11 million children, or 1 in 7 children in the US lived in food-insecure households in 2018. In addition, statistics reflect that the Sangamon County poverty rate is 15.6% which is 2% higher than the State of Illinois poverty rate of 13.5%. Moreover, the 2021 Title 1 allocation request from the Illinois State Board of Education for the New Berlin CUSD #16 reports that of the 908 school children in the district who are age 5-17, 85 or 9.36% of those children live in poverty. Food insecurity has the potential to be harmful to individuals of any age, but it can be especially devastating for our children.
In 2021 Island Grove was awarded $3,500 from the Larsen Trust Fund to continue outreach efforts to supply the micro-food pantry, as well as incorporating the needs of the Pretzel FEEDS program that delivers food to area families suffering from food insecurity.
Since receipt of 2021 funds from the Larsen Trust Fund, Island Grove has begun working in conjunction with a New Berlin business owner who operates the local laundromat to form a partnership and establish an additional location where those who are food insecure can find assistance. In addition, Island Grove has begun forming a relationship with Saint John’s Lutheran Church in New Berlin. Saint John’s is interested in forming an ecumenical relationship with IG to assist in supplying the laundromat with needed food items. Also, the Island Grove Outreach Committee voted to award $500 to the Pretzel’s FEEDS Program to cover the cost of one week’s worth of food for the New Berlin School District 2021 children’s summer meal program.
Thank you to the United Methodist Foundation for granting funds to Island Grove UMC to continue their outreach initiatives to meet the needs of children and their families in New Berlin and surrounding communities who suffer from food insecurity.