This summer, East Lake UMC served as a summer feeding site for neighborhood children. The program offers free hot meals to any child eighteen and younger. One grandmother said that she “thanked God” when she saw the sign about the program at a local grocery. She said the program was an answer to prayer to feed her grandchildren. Approximately 45-55 students dined at the church every Monday through Thursday during June and July.
Working with food is not a new venture at East Lake UMC. The Downstairs Diner is part of the ministry of the church. Five days a week, the Diner offers hot meals for $6 a plate that includes a drink and dessert. On Saturday mornings, P.E.E.R., Inc. – a North Alabama Conference Advance Special, runs the East Lake Farmers Market in the church’s parking lot. This summer, the church has partnered with P.E.E.R., Inc. to incorporate fresh produce from market into the meals served to the children.
In addition to lunch for the children, church and P.E.E.R. workers offered programming that promoted nutrition and creativity. From singing Vacation Bible School songs to experiencing children's yoga, activities were fun and energizing. Students have learned music theory, acted out a play, planted seeds, played with worms in the compost bin, and created an abundance of crafts.
The church's mission committee decided to encourage the congregation to take on the task of feeding the children beyond the weekday program. East Lake UMC members have collected and packed snack packs for the kids to take home on Thursday afternoons. The bags include canned ravioli, granola bars, applesauce, juice boxes, and other snack items for the children to eat over the weekend.
The staff of East Lake UMC and P.E.E.R. say, “We are especially thankful for the help of area youth groups and volunteers, including Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, who have made this summer's events possible.”