McDowell Technical Community College

Linville/Pisgah United Methodist

Food Insecure Children

By Rev. Ted Henry

Avery County

Nine hundred plus (900) children in Avery County, under the age of eighteen, are food insecure!

That is what I was told some six years ago when I arrived to serve a church appointment in Avery County. Food insecure? What does that mean and whatever it means how in the world could there be nine hundred kids in Avery County seemingly afflicted by it?

The statistic is shocking for certain; yet even to this day I meet people who have no idea the massive number of children in Avery County who have no idea when or where their next meal might come from! Yet, I can’t tell you how many times I hear something like, ‘Pastor Ted, there is no way. We have RAM, Feeding Avery Families, the Senior Center, and maybe one or two other programs offering food!’  Yes, we do have all those wonderful programs in the county and there is still need.

I believe what most people either don’t understand or misunderstand is that each program can only offer families three to four days of food. So, there is always a gap, especially in the winter months and in the summer, when school is out, and kids don’t have access to reduced or free lunches.

The Avery County Missional Network (ACMN), after much prayer, research, and discernment officially launched in November of 2013. The goal was to work closely with the School System to identify at risk children and provide additional food for the weekends during the school year. The ministry began serving one school with an average of twenty (20) backpacks of food each week.

Today, with the assistance of folks from a variety of local churches and denominations, grants from outside the county, several silent financial partners, support of the Avery County School system, several Avery High School groups, students from Lees-McRae College, as well as many local law enforcement professionals, the ACMN can fill the weekend gap and provide nutritious food to hundreds of children in the ten schools in the county every week of the school year! In addition, the ministry is also able to provide food for the Summer School program as well as the 4-H summer WOW program.

The reality is teachers already have their hands full in keeping the attention of kids today, they need all the help they can get. A child who has eaten breakfast is always more receptive to learn than one who has a growling stomach because they haven’t eaten most of the weekend!

The desire of the ACMN is to provide enough food for the weekends so children come to school with a full stomach and we can only do that with continued support through prayer, financially, and physically!

Imagine what it would be like to have more children coming to school on Monday morning ready to focus on their studies and school work instead of the pangs of hunger. The outcome ultimately could be children with higher test scores, higher grades, lower dropout rates, and hopefully more children adequately educated for the job market and /or ready for college.

The ACMN is an ecumenical ministry that operates under the auspices of the 501(C)3 of Linville United Methodist Church in Linville, NC.  Please lift the program and the children of Avery County in your prayers!

Rev. Ted Henry – Outreach Coordinator for the ACMN and Pastor of Linville/Pisgah UMC