Written by Sarah Adams, Communications & Office Coordinator — Iowa United Methodist Foundation
Union Park UMC has a vision of providing manna as God does in the book of Exodus; they want to alleviate hunger in their community and beyond. One way they do this is through a manna meal, a dinner provided once per month to anyone who comes to the church and requests it. The project started small in the beginning of 2020, but at its height reached over 340 meals, and now averages around 150 meals each month. They also feed a group of 15-20 people in a local senior facility on the same night. The Foundation has been fortunate to be able to provide funding to this group through our Carma Mohler Hunger Grant, and in January our staff got to visit while they served their monthly meal.
The manna meal takes place on the fourth Monday of each month, starting at 5:30pm. Word about the program is starting to spread, so when we arrived at 4:30, cars were already lined up in the church parking lot waiting to receive meals. Once we got started, one person would go out to each car and ask how many meals they needed, then come back inside and wait for the meals to get packaged. There was also a table out front with things like bread, cookie dough and gelato – foods that had been donated but there wasn’t enough to put in each meal – and folks could help themselves to that food as well. When all was said and done (it only took about an hour), over 150 meals had been served by 10 volunteers and most of the donation table was empty.
Getting to see grant money being used in this way was truly inspiring for the Foundation staff. The volunteers know many of their “customers” by name and encourage them to ask for as many meals as they need (no qualification required). They are always ready with a backup plan in case they run low on food, and they are proud that they’ve never had to turn anyone away. Volunteers shared with us different ways in which they’ve learned to make a dollar go a long way – from buying in bulk to saving leftovers to knowing the smallest baggie you can buy that will still hold a cookie. We could feel the joy they experienced from taking part in this program, and the excitement around planning next month’s meal.
The Foundation is very proud to be able to support organizations like the Monthly Manna Meal at Union Park UMC. We think they said it best when they told us, “We are so thankful we can do our Lord’s work with cheerful hearts and willing hands, and so blessed to serve the people we serve.”
If you know an organization that could benefit from a Carma Mohler Grant, visit our website to learn more and download the application.