Bread of Life

10 May

A local bakery that takes part in our Cornucopia Food Pantry’s food rescue program called and said that they would be closing early that day and could we send someone up to pick up the donated bread that they generously provide once a week for us.  We said yes, and I went up to pick up what ended up being about one hundred loaves of organic, nutritious bread.  As I helped the store employees put the loaves of bread into bags for us to take, I took in the wonderful smells of the bakery and the joy that folks had in knowing the day old bread would be going to a local food pantry and not a local pig farm or the garbage.

The next day, as we served customers at the food pantry and put the bread out for folks to take, I reflected on the metaphor of the bread and the food we distribute to students and people in our community.  The bread and other food is literal nourishment for our community members, and we use it for several days for our food pantry and our dinners throughout the week.  When we have a real excess of the bread, we put it on a table on the front lawn for folks to take, walk around campus and downtown to ask folks if they want a loaf, or share it with a local children’s home.  These intentional acts of kindness are feeding people with bread that many of them could not afford.

The gift of a nutritious loaf of bread brings joy and hope to those who may have had a hard time lately of finding those things in their life.  The gift of bread makes people smile, and makes a connection between the giver and the recipient.  The gift of this bread reminds folks that people care, and that their health and well being are important.  The gift of the bread reminds our volunteers and students of the affirming value of giving, not to mention challenging them on whether or not we equitably distribute resources in our society.  It is a wonderful reminder that the story of the loaves and fishes is less about a magical act by Jesus to transform a few pieces and bread of fish into thousands of loves and fishes, but a call by Jesus to more creatively and equitably share what we do have with each other.

The past many years at our Waysmeet Center have found us moving to a food distribution system and food rescue operation that seeks to provide fresher and healthier food to those who are hungry and/or struggling to make ends meet.  We have moved away from asking those who are hungry and forced to wait in line for food from having to take the crumbs from the table which manifest in canned food and cheap processed food being all that is available.  Rather, we ask our donors to “donate what you eat.”  We ask individual donors, businesses and institutions to help us in sharing the bounty by getting healthier and more wholesome food to those in need.  We connect with local farms and gardens to donate food; we run food rescue operations to connect to local businesses to donate their excess, and try to expand that as much as we can.  We provide nutritional guidance, classes and tips for how folks can eat healthier even on limited budgets.  We make sure our weekly dinners are the healthiest food we can provide, and whenever possible are fair trade, locally produced and provided.  And, we have created our own small community gardens for students, food pantry patrons and our residents to utilize.

All of this is done with the values of respect, compassion, care, dignity and love.  It is not about the food, really; it is about all of our community feeling like brothers and sisters connected by an Agape that is affirming and inclusive, welcomes everyone and commits to a world where all are fed.  Our sharing of healthy, wholesome food that is nurturing and sustainable is a spiritual outreach, and a reminder that the simplest of acts have profound impacts.  The bread, and the soup, the fruit and the vegetables, the eggs, and the meat, and the rice and the flour and all that we have and share are food for the masses, a witness to a loving God and a loving community that strives to love one another.  We may practice our witness imperfectly as we move forward, but in the simple act of giving out the bread and our other foods to share, we move one step closer to that beloved community we are hoping to build one loaf at a time.

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Reverend Larry Brickner-Wood is the Chaplain and Executive Director of the United Campus MInistry to the University of New Hampshire.  The UCM, aka the Waysmeet Center, is an ecumenical and inter-faith ministry that has existed at UNH for over 60 years.  Larry is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC) and is in his 13th year at UCM.  He served previously as the Assistant Pastor at First Church Congregational, UCC, in Rochester, NH, and spent twenty years in another calling in local government, serving as a municipal manager for most of that time.  He has a Bachelors degree in Public Administration from James Madison University in Virginia, a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Vermont, and a Master in Divinity from Andover Newton Theolgical School.  He is married and has two sons, who are in college in West Virginia and Arizona.  He loves his work!

 

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