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'Give them something to eat' to solve hunger issues

Imagine the entire population of Two Harbors. Then throw in all the residents of some of our surrounding communities like Knife River and Castle Danger. Imagine us all together, in one place. Men, women, children, young and old ... can you picture this?

Now imagine that they're all hungry.

This is the scene each of the four gospel writers describe. A group of people - a large group numbering around 5,000 people - have been following Jesus. The truth is, they can't get enough of him. Wherever he goes, they go. And in their excitement to hear his every word, apparently, they have all forgotten to bring something very important. No one packed any food.

No one, except for a boy. He had five loaves of bread and two fish. Not much for a crowd of 5,000. But with Jesus, everyone gets fed. And not only does everyone eat, but there is food left over. There is always an abundance with Christ.

If you remember the story, one of the disciples of Jesus wanted to send the crowd away that night. He couldn't imagine how they would feed everyone. He had a hard time believing they could raise the money to do it, and even if they could - it's just such a big project. They should all go home and eat their own food, he said.

But what did Jesus say? "You give them something to eat."

You may not know this, but hunger is a problem here in our community. I know it's hard to believe sometimes, but it's true. Here is some of the information from the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank. Right here in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin, 11 percent of our population, live in poverty and 12 percent of people are food insecure. That means they don't know where their next meal is coming from. Thirty-two percent of households using food shelves and soup kitchens report at least one working adult in the home making an average wage of $8.39 per hour.

I hear people talk about cellphones and cigarettes when we bring up hunger. "If they can afford cellphones..." they say. "If you can buy cigarettes..." And I understand that completely. If you have a choice between smoking and eating, you should really choose eating. But what about the ones who don't get to make these choices?

Recently our congregation asked the question, and the answer was surprising to some of us. What about the children? Are there hungry children in our community? Again, the people from Second Harvest came to help us understand the issue. Thirty percent of those receiving food from food shelves are children, and food shelf use among children has increased 39 percent in the last five years.

We talked about how good it is that the schools are providing breakfasts and lunches. This isn't just a convenience for families. For a number of kids, this is a necessity. Then we talked about the weekends. What do the kids in our schools who rely on the meals at school do for food on Friday, Saturday and Sunday? For some, the answer is fend for themselves.

Through Second Harvest Food Shelf's BackPack Program, we are hoping to change that. And we are hoping you will join us. We want to follow Jesus' command to "give them something to eat." It may not be an end to world hunger, but for the thirty children at Minnehaha School who would eat on the weekends because of this BackPack Program, it is very important. Please contact us at Bethlehem Lutheran Church if you, a group you're involved in or your congregation would like more information about how to get involved.