Main Menu

Conference, awareness day offer Florida UMs chance to reduce hunger

Conference, awareness day offer Florida UMs chance to reduce hunger

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference, awareness day offer Florida UMs chance to reduce hunger

May 14, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0292}

NOTE:  This story is a sidebar to e-Review Florida UMNS #0290 - Annual gathering offers pick of opportunities to 'be the church.'

n Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and society have close ties.

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — The Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) has a special place in the heart of Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker. Whitaker was on hand when the national organization first began its potato project in 1979.

"The Society of St. Andrew originated in the Virginia Conference with Ray Buchanan and Ken Horne, who are friends of mine," Whitaker said. "When I was a rural pastor on the eastern shore of Virginia, I invited them to come and lead my church on a weekend in helping the church learn how to respond to the issue of hunger in the community and in the world. There are a lot of potato farmers in that church."

Horne and Buchanan spoke during the weekend about transforming the primarily educational organization into one committed to feeding hungry people. The men talked about collecting food that would be thrown away because it doesn't fit market standards and using it to feed people. Potato farmers from the church said they would be willing to talk to other potato farmers on the shore and help Horne and Buchanan achieve their goals, according to Whitaker.

"That was the beginning of the potato project," Whitaker said. "Several weeks later, after that weekend, Ken Horne and Ray Buchanan went to the Virginia Conference Council on Ministries and asked for a grant to help them rent trucks to transport the potatoes. Their hope was that once they got this thing going, they would ask for donations and wouldn't have to come back to the conference, which is what happened."

Whitaker said that was also the beginning of a whole new mission for SoSA. "Up until that time it was really just two ministers living in communal life in the mountains of Virginia going around to churches talking about world hunger," he said.

ORLANDO — Volunteers gleaned 138,000 pounds of citrus from area homeowners' trees Jan. 31, 2004, as part of a Society of St. Andrew gleaning event, according to Kathy Forth, the ministry's Florida program coordinator. Another 130,000 pounds was collected in Brevard County. The grapefruit, limes, lemons and oranges were distributed to the needy throughout the state. Photo by Michael Wacht, Photo #04-0014.

Twenty-five years later SoSA is a national faith-based, nonprofit organization that salvages fresh produce that would otherwise go to waste and donates it to food banks, church pantries, soup kitchens and other agencies offering food programs. It continues to bridge the hunger gap with help from local churches and conferences.

Gleaning events and potato drops have occurred throughout the Florida Conference, but SoSA is offering Florida United Methodists a chance to participate in a mission project at the "One Body One Spirit" 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event. Attendees and delegates are being asked to participate in a reverse potato drop. Instead of bagging potatoes brought in bulk to a specific location, called a potato drop, delegates are asked to purchase a five-pound bag of potatoes and place it in a marked bin at the Lakeland Center June 2-3. SoSA will give the potatoes to food distribution charities in the Lakeland area.

Kathy Forth, Florida program coordinator, said five pounds of potatoes may not seem like a big deal, but to people who are hungry, it's appreciated and needed.

"There are more than two million hungry people in the state of Florida," she said from her office in Orlando. "People don't realize it or turn a blind eye to it. People can make a difference in their communities. Hunger doesn't need to be."

Forth said Florida United Methodists can also help by praying for the ministry, making a financial contribution and gleaning, the traditional Biblical practice of gathering crops that would otherwise be left in the fields to rot or be plowed under after harvest.

TITUSVILLE — Society of St. Andrew volunteers load citrus picked from trees in Brevard County Jan. 31, 2004, during the largest gleaning project of the year. More than 450 volunteers collected grapefruit, limes, lemons and oranges, which were distributed to the needy throughout the state. Photo by Brian Backus, Photo #04-0012.

Forth said SoSA is always looking for volunteers who are willing to glean, or pick, produce from growers' fields or neighbors' yard. Anyone from age 4 to 90 is eligible. But the organization is also looking for fields they can glean.

"Right now, we glean from November to May," she said. "However, potentially we could glean from September to June because something is always growing. That's why we really need churches to help us by telling growers in their churches about us so we can have more access to different kinds of produce."

Churches can also help in the effort to end hunger by participating in National Hunger Awareness Day June 7. The grassroots movement is designed to raise awareness about the solvable problem of hunger in America. Now in its fourth year, the day serves as a platform for domestic hunger-relief organizations to raise awareness about hunger in America and the work they do. Hunger Awareness Day is also a time when faith-based communities are called to lift up people who are poor, hurting and hungry throughout the country, according to organizers.

SoSA is a partner sponsor of Hunger Awareness Day, which is observed the first Tuesday of every June. Activities planned by partner sponsors, other groups and individuals to observe the day are listed on the National Hunger Awareness Day Web site at

SoSA has also prepared a free packet of resource materials churches can use to participate in the day and engage their congregations in helping the poor and hungry in their own communities. It includes a bulletin insert with responsive reading and information about the day, sample sermon titled "NIMBY," sample children's time presentation, short skit that could be done by youth, sample call to worship and prayer of confession, list of scriptures related to caring for the poor and bulletin insert presenting a Hunger Awareness Day Fast. The materials can be downloaded in PDF format from SoSA's Web site at

In conjunction with National Hunger Awareness Day, SoSA is coordinating dozens of events that will engage thousands of local volunteers in gleaning excess but nutritious produce that will be distributed to thousands of feeding agencies nationwide. 

For more information about SoSA (Advance Special, Number 801600) contact Forth at 800-806-0756 or visit


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.