First Dinner Lady

On Thursday the First Lady Michelle Obama became what a number of British copywriters called the "First DinnerLady" as she took time to help out at Miriam's Kitchen, a not-for-profit food pantry in northwest Washington DC.

It reminded me of the tour I led last year to the US as part of CCWA's "Unlocking the Potential" programme, which seeks to show church leaders what they might be able to do for the local community, taking them to visit faith-based initiatives that are operating in a context where the division between church and state is constitutionally reinforced, unlike here where there is much more opportunity for collaboration between the faith and public sector. I led a team to Pittsburgh, while my colleague led one to DC. Both teams visited programmes similar to Miriam's Kitchen, and both were amazed by what they did, as well as by the need for such programmes in the richest nation on earth.

We all reflected that inspiring though they were, the usefulness of such programmes back here in NI might be limited to the few that slip through the safety net of the welfare state that we take so much for granted, such as asylum seekers who have not yet been granted official status.

However, I was only home a matter of weeks when the community programme associated with our own church, Dundonald Family and Community Initiative, was asked to help support 2 families with emergency food aid. We were able to link in with the Storehouse Programme recently established by the Belfast Vineyard Church, and have now had to call on their support a number of times in the past year. Recently both ourselves in Dundonald Methodist and the other church partner in DFCI, St. Mary's Ballybeen, have been collecting non-perishable foods for the programme. This week's top 5 shopping list is:

1. Tinned Desserts
2. Tinned Fish
3. Tinned Meals
4. Crisps
5. Long Life Milk

But it is not just food that it is needed in this time of economic crisis. Many community projects including our own, are currently under financial threat just when they are most needed. And the thing that the voluntary sector needs more than anything else is volunteers. So I hope that Michelle Obama's little photo op bears fruit, not only for Marion's Kitchen, but for all sorts of programmes on both sides of the pond, seeking to help those who have been hit hardest by the credit crunch. Because one lady, in one programme for one day will not be enough...

If you would like to support DFCI you will find a widget in the sidebar which will allow you to do so. If you would like to find a faith-based programme where you can volunteer, contact Mark Goody at CCWA.


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