Coronavirus has invaded our airspace at an incredible rate of infection using natural selection attacking the most vulnerable in our population first. Virtual prayers being sent to the heavens are asking for this demon to cease and that we be released from the clutches of this damnation plaguing our nation and the world.
Even before this pandemic as one of the coordinators of the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry I’ve often wondered how long we would be able to keep going. Sustainability is a formidable issue. I think this because we the leaders are now senior citizens, some with underlying health issues. We’ve been truly blessed because our volunteers from the community with both the soup kitchen and the pantry are able bodied men and women. We have three primary leaders left that are all seniors that make up the planning committee and now we have the monster COVID 19 that has complicated matters further. One of our senior leaders succumbed to this deadly virus. She had underlying health issues and was living in an assisted living facility when the Coronavirus reared its ugly head and pounced. We are praying virtually three times a day now to keep ourselves in God’s perfect peace that surpasses all understanding and that we will be able to stand in the face of adversity.
Part of sustainability is having resources. The foodbank gives the pantry food for the community. Our main expense with the pantry is renting a U-Haul truck once a month, and taking care of the Orkin bill (pest control). The soup kitchen is not aligned with the foodbank because of certain modifications to the building that had to be made before we could join in with them as a partner consequently the soup kitchen does not get food from them. The food sources for the soup kitchen come from Seton Hall University which is part of the network of college recovery programs that are across the country. These programs have student volunteers recover leftover food from their cafeterias and then disperse it to various feeding programs in the community. This food otherwise would be thrown away. We also get donations from the Hilton Hotel in Short Hills New Jersey. As soon as COVID 19 exponentially multiplied in our area and New York City became the epi-center, and New Jersey as well was being infected at an alarming rate all the schools closed down, as well as some hotels; Newark imposed a curfew which was quickly followed by orders to shelter-in. The soup kitchen had to be temporarily closed but the pantry is still in operation.
Even though the soup kitchen had to temporarily close God has been good to us. In a way it’s good that the soup kitchen is not aligned with the food bank because we are a faith based organization. We have Bible study before our dinners but it is not mandatory for people to attend, and we also have prayer before we eat in which participation is not required. What I have found in my years at the soup kitchen is that most of our clients want to participate because many of them believe in God and are looking for consolation and comfort. Because of Federal regulations we cannot pray at the pantry, nor pass out tracts, nor engage in any kind of activity that might be perceived as infringing on our clients civil rights.
We enjoy having religious freedom at our soup kitchen though. Souls come seeking solace from a world that relentlessly beats them down. I can hear the voice of the community scribe reading from the Bible, I Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves…Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.” Issues…issues…issues…I’m homeless…got no health insurance…need to go in a program…boyfriend abusing me…don’t have enough food for my children…tired of living in the shelter…and this was before COVID 19 that is now our reality.
In the midst of this pandemic from the depths of hell our country is being shaken to the very foundation of the sustainability upon which it was built capitalism being our economic system, and democracy our political system. The organization Feeding America has always been here as have foodbanks all across the country but now they have been thrown into the forefront because so many people have lost their jobs and now have no income. Millions and millions have filed for unemployment but for many the process is endless and they have not received compensation. On our last pantry day we serviced about 161 heads of households and the food bank on the same day had a drive through pantry where 5000 boxes of food were given away. This highlights the magnitude of the current problem of food insecurity in our country.
According to a New York Times article found at nytimes.com entitled Poor Americans Hit Hardest by job losses and amid lock downs…”thirty-six million people in the last two months have applied for unemployment; 39% of those who have lost their jobs make $40,000 a year or less as compared to 13% who make $100,000 a year or more.” According to the organization Feeding America prior to the pandemic about 37 million people were suffering from food insecurity, or having a hard time buying food with all the other bills to pay. One foodbank network reported that typically they service about 32,000 households weekly but since the unemployment crisis these numbers have increased by 26,000 people needing food assistance.
Many of the iniquities in our system are being exposed. Why have minorities and immigrants been hit the hardest? There is a direct correlation between health care or should I say the lack of adequate health care or no health care at all and our black and brown communities being ravaged by COVID 19. In the Washington Post an article entitled Democracy Dies in Darkness found at nypost.com states “As the novel Coronavirus sweeps across the United States it appears to be killing black Americans at a disproportionately high rate…” In a survey done by John Hopkins University and participating state health departments it was found that “counties that are majority black have three times the rate of infection and almost six times the rate of death as counties where white residents are in the majority.” The information was taken from a sampling of counties most of the states being in the east. It is a known health fact diabetes, blood pressure, and heart disease plague the black community. Once again these trends point directly to the inequities in our health system.
Perennials blooming yet in May we still have 32 degree days. Nature is gathering all her forces to take a leap of faith knowing that God is in control of all that is natural and beautiful on earth and in our universe. The brilliant colors splashed across the sky at the beginning of a new day announcing new beginnings…the strength found in the solid rock mountains of his creation weathering the storms of life…the tides of the ocean controlled by the moon, the sun, and gravity as human beings go about their lives daily. Yet now we have been stopped in our tracks, constantly having to wear masks, and sheltering-in has become an intricate part in saving our lives…at the same time as states announce plans to open up mustering up our forces and our courage as we are adapting to a new reality.
In February my concern was how much longer the leadership of the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry would be able to sustain our program. But in walked COVID 19 and sustainability took on new dimensions and we became infused with God’s limitless energy as we witnessed the crushing financial blow overwhelming our community reminding us that we are the people of God… the senior citizen leadership…In my mind I can hear our community scribe reading Galatians 6:9 “And let us not to be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” As long as food insecurity exists in our community God will provide and make a way that even in these devastating times his light will continue to shine at the House of Love Soup Kitchn/Pantry located in Newark, NJ.
© 2020, Tamam Tracy Moncur
TAMAM TRACY MONCUR is currently is the Outreach Coordinator for the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry located in Newark NJ. This is a community faith-based organization whose mission is to help individuals who are experiencing hardship due to life circumstances. They partner with the NJ Foodbank, the Seton Hall Food Recovery Program, and the Short Hills Hilton Hotel to provide food to the community.