The chance to mix with children and see the joy in their faces is what Bishop Lawrence White says moves him the most when he and other World Vision volunteers hand people in the U.S. boxes filled with food.
More than 100 cars line up every Monday and Wednesday afternoon at Church of the Living God in Tacoma, Washington, where Bishop White is senior pastor.
The cars come from the city’s neighborhoods and surrounding rural communities for prepacked, 25-pound cardboard boxes brimming with fresh fruit and vegetables, rice and canned beans—enough for a family of five for a week. The boxes also contain household essentials, coloring books and other playthings.
The church joins 11 more “pods” in the Pacific Northwest—among 70 in the U.S.—as part of World Vision’s Fresh Food Box Program. The Christian, child-focused international-aid agency based in Federal Way, Washington, assists disaster survivors, refugees and other displaced people in nearly 100 countries.
World Vision is one of 300 U.S. nonprofits the U.S. Department of Agriculture chose in May for its Farmers to Family Food Box Program, formed as a result of the coronavirus.
“It’s a humbling experience to have the opportunity to serve people in need,” Bishop White says, “and there’s need everywhere.”
When the pandemic hurled people already vulnerable into an economic tailspin, many faced the choice of paying rent or buying groceries. Gone were free school lunches, yet at farms, restaurants and hotels, food piled up with nowhere to go. That’s where World Vision stepped in.
The organization buys the prepacked food boxes from overstocked businesses and stores them refrigerated at its Fife, Washington, facility, at several product warehouses in Yakima County, and at rural and urban warehouses in Idaho and Oregon. Distributors deliver the boxes to participating churches, to which World Vision asks school districts to direct families in need.
World Vision’s Fresh Food Box Program helps keep distributors in business and churches busy.
“Obviously, the families benefit the most,” says Reed Slattery, national director of U.S. programs with World Vision. “We’ve heard great testimonials from them about how they didn’t know how they’d make ends meet. This program is such a timely answer for them.”
Bishop White says the people at World Vision are life-changers.
“They’re able to meet needs, wherever they arise,” he says.
And the families and individuals who benefit from them?
“We’re trying to be a blessing to them, but they never fail to say, ‘God bless you and thank you,’” Bishop White says.