February 12, 2021
During 2021, Synod hunger ministries and their service to their communities will be celebrated/lifted up/highlighted. This week, Pastor Tom Clark of Ascension Lutheran Church in Jackson, MS. has contributed this article about Stewpot Community Services which in 2020 received a Domestic Hunger Grant from ELCA World Hunger.
FEEDING THE HUNGRY IN JACKSON, MS
Stewpot Community Services and Ascension Lutheran Church
Ascension is currently the only ELCA congregation within the city of Jackson, MS; one of only two in the metro-Jackson area. None of the nine ELCA congregations in Mississippi are large, but all are committed to sharing the good news of God’s love through Jesus with our communities.
For Ascension, that means being a regular supporter of Stewpot Community Services, an interfaith ministry feeding the hungry (and often homeless) of Jackson’s intercity and working to combat food insecurity in the metro area. Ascension has supported Stewpot for decades. We regularly provide members to assist in staffing Stewpot’s noon Community Kitchen, serving 300+ people a free meal every day, no questions asked. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Stewpot has also taken on serving breakfast five days a week, plus providing Meals on Wheels. In addition, Stewpot provides food donations from their pantry for needy families, serving approximately 4,800 individuals a year. We at Ascension keep a large cart in our narthex for donations to Stewpot and deliver them regularly.
Over years of faithful service, Stewpot’s ministry has expanded to include shelters for women, women with children, and a separate shelter for men; providing housing for medical clinics operated by area medical facilities; participating in the Rapid Rehousing Program through a HUD grant to a five-county area; offering an After School Program and Summer Camp that serves at-risk students; operating an Opportunity Center Day Shelter for the homeless; and operating a Clothing Closet. For the last few years, I have written letters of support to the ELCA, requesting that Stewpot be awarded a Domestic Hunger Grant. This past year, it worked! Stewpot received its first Domestic Hunger Grant.
This support comes at a critical time. In the past Stewpot received substantial financial support from the city of Jackson, but as Jackson’s resources have contracted, so has its support of ministries to the needy. However, Stewpot intends to continue doing all it can to fight food insecurity in the Jackson metropolitan area.
As in many US cities, food insecurity is growing in Jackson. Stewpot, however, is determined to continue providing meals and groceries to the most vulnerable. This has become more evident in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of meals served and food pantry needs have increased. Stewpot has been recognized as one of the primary food resources during this time and anticipates numbers served will continue to climb into the future. In particular, due to COVID, funding is needed to cover increased costs for purchase of paper goods, cleaning supplies, and food pantry items not collected through donations.
There are few ELCA congregations in Mississippi. Our congregations are not large, and the hunger related issues are great. Stewpot Community Services does much to make a difference in meeting those needs in the Jackson metro area. Its multi-faceted ministries align closely with the ELCA’s vision for faithful service.
Ascension is proud to serve as the face of the ELCA in our local community. We are delighted that the ELCA is working with us to make a difference in Jackson, MS. Together we are the hands of God’s work.
Pastor, Ascension Lutheran Church, Jackson, MS
Pr. Tom Clark