What is the role of churches amidst rising food prices and housing costs, inflation, and overall increases in cost of living? This question emerged during our Mission Action Plan meetings at St. David’s in Welland. Everyone is affected by inflation and the rising costs of living, but in particular those already disadvantaged are most adversely affected. Our parishioners noticed that food banks were increasingly being relied on to make ends meet, and that our part of Welland lacked food banks and food security programs. We determined that this was an urgent need St. David’s could help meet. Our food security ministry immediately has become an important way to connect with our neighbours in authentic ways.
Since 2018, St. David’s has operated a gently-used clothing store offering both slightly-used and new clothing. While operating this store honest and open dialogue has taken place, and with rising food prices, inflation, rents, and cost of living an urgent need for food security emerged.
In September of 2022, eight members of the parish gathered to create a food pantry, with the intent of opening once a week for four hours. Subsequently, a plan to get the word out and a construction plan for shelving and storage were created, and a cadre of volunteers came forward to assist. Closets were built, non-perishable food items were donated, and financial support was provided by a number of faith-based organizations including Faith Rebekah Lodge and the St. David’s Anglican Church Women group.
With a modest amount of money and a stockpile of donations, a “soft” opening for the pantry was scheduled for October 24, 2022. Since then, the Food Pantry has operated every Monday afternoon. Originally a small double closet in the church, approximately five feet by 10 feet, was dedicated to storing non-perishable items; however, as the overwhelming need for food security grew so did our need for additional space. Since then, we have created additional closet space and have approached the Diocese of Niagara for a W.O.W. grant in order to purchase a 40’ outdoor shipping container which we plan to retrofit to help with storage.
Word of the new food pantry has spread since we opened, resulting in an increase in the number of neighbours using the pantry. Initially we handed out 35 bags of food in November, but in February we handed out around 80 bags of groceries within our community.
St. David’s is located within walking distance of Niagara College, which means that many of the people whom we serve are international students who have specific dietary requirements and we are committed to accommodating their specific dietary needs, making the St. David’s Food Pantry one of a kind in this respect.
Over the past few months, connections and partnerships with food security organizations and advocates in Welland have been established including; Open Arms Mission, Dreams to Beams, Nabisco, Beyond the Streets, and Small-Scale Farms. All of whom have come forward to assist us in our quest to address food security in our community. Our hope is that like the affordable clothing store, the Food Pantry can become another example of Christ’s light and love in Welland, and that we as disciples by reaching out to others will provide a visible example of what it means to live out the kingdom of God in our community. Through our care for our neighbours, St. David’s strives to be a place where the Good News of Jesus Christ can continue to grow and that we are able to bring others into relationship with our Lord and Saviour who is the source of our love and compassion.