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Randolph College class aims to feed the hungry

This week, Professor Jennifer Abbassi and about 20 students in her Global to Local political science class hosted a hunger dialogue to help area food agencies coordinate their services and increase efficiency.

12/19/2008 10:11:14 AM

   

This story appeared in the December 18, 2008 edition of the Lynchburg News & Advance and is reprinted here with permission.

By Christa Desrets
Published: December 18, 2008

As the economic recession hits area food ministries, a class at Randolph College aims to unite local efforts to feed the hungry.

This week, Professor Jennifer Abbassi and about 20 students in her Global to Local political science class hosted a hunger dialogue to help area food agencies coordinate their services and increase efficiency.

“There’s already significant coordinated efforts but I don’t know that anything like (this) has ever happened before (in Lynchburg),” Abbassi said. “I think some good things could come out of it.”

Her class started the project by visiting churches in Lynchburg and recording which ones operated a food ministry, and how they ran it.

“Then it becomes possible to say, ‘well, how can it be strengthened?’ ” Abbassi said.

Since the class was not large enough to research the entire city, she said, she limited the scope to specific areas.

Randolph sophomore Ankeeta Shresdha said she was surprised by how many churches provide some kind of food ministry.

“Some of the churches, they know what they are doing. But they don’t know what others are doing,” she said.

Members of six churches attended the dialogue Tuesday, as did representatives with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank Network and Interfaith Outreach.

“It was really encouraging to see that they, too, feel the need to have this conversation to see what we can do collectively to make sure that we are giving assistance to the people who really need (it), and that we’re not missing anyone,” said Dierdre Glover with the Lynchburg area branch of the food bank.

“I know the next step will be to get a general idea of who was missing from the table; reach out and really tap the ones who need to be there.”

Susan Manion, who represented the eight congregations that contribute to the Rivermont Area Emergency Food Pantry, said she hopes communication will help ministries as their needs rise but both financial and food donations dwindle.

“For instance, if we had a lack of resources, if we ran out of food, I know that there’s other places we can send (people in need),” she said. “We’re only one facet of how these people can be helped.”

Abbassi and several others plan to meet in January to discuss specific solutions to issues facing area food ministries.

For example, some churches worry about overlapping services to some while not reaching others at all, she said.

A possible solution, she said, may be to create a database that all the ministries could access which would include the names of people who have received services and track each person’s level of need.

“These groups would really like a more seamless type of partnership,” she said.



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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations
434-947-8142