39 Years of Meals — Church Food Program Thrives with Help from SHA

In January, 1982 Atlanta was hit by an epic winter storm that blanketed the area with six inches of ice and snow. A midtown church opened its doors to help members of the community shelter, but was soon overwhelmed. When they reached out for help, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer jumped into action.

The Midtown congregation agreed to provide storm-impacted individuals with two sandwiches and a cup of coffee each day for a month. That month stretched into 39 years and sparked what would become the Lutheran Community Food Ministry, which today is co-chaired by Mary Howle.

Though the program has grown vastly since its start, Howle says its mission remains to serve  those who struggle with homelessness and food insecurity. The centerpiece of the food ministry is a community lunch served five days a week at Redeemer. Since the pandemic started last March, the number of guests has risen from about 100 per day to between 150 and 200. Bob Boyd, director of operations and finance at the church, says that although the meal is currently carry-out only, the spirit of sharing remains strong and guests are offered non-food services as well.

The Food of Love

Meal preparation is overseen by Chef Steve Miles, a church member and caterer who donates his time and talent, with the assistance of many other volunteers. They provide a tasty, protein-based lunch that might feature beef vegetable soup or a New Orleans style jambalaya, plus fresh fruit, bread and a sweet treat for dessert.

The bulk of the food, sometimes as much as 2,000 pounds a week, is donated by Whole Foods Midtown and is rescued and delivered by Second Helpings Atlanta. Says Howle, “The food from Second Helpings dramatically increases the nutritional value of what we can share, and allows us to consistently count on high-quality protein and produce.”

According to Associate Pastor Ronald Bonner, the Redeemer food program, which is supported by other Atlanta-area Lutheran churches, has expanded to serve residents of Lutheran Towers, a senior living facility, and food insecure students at Georgia Tech. To date the program has served two million meals. Pastor Bonner notes that the goal is not to have to serve another two million. The food ministry also addresses needs in the areas of healthcare, justice, housing and the restoration of individual dignity.

Second Helpings Atlanta’s partnership with the church is now in its 8th year, according to Kim Soltero, SHA food network coordinator. She says, “We were so pleased to provide 80,000 pounds of food in 2020 to Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. The growth of their programs during COVID speaks volumes about their stewardship and community advocacy.”

Learn more about hunger relief efforts at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer Food Ministry at redeemer.org.