On October 7, I attended the 1st Annual Child Hunger Summit in Melbourne, Florida. This interfaith meeting was to benefit a local program called The Children’s Hunger Project. The organization provides backpacks full of ready to eat food that are distributed to needy children at the end of the school day on Fridays, to ensure they don’t go hungry on the weekends. The idea to hold an interfaith summit of local religious congregations was the idea of Bob Barnes, the executive director of The Hunger Project. The mission was to bring an awareness to Brevard County’s faith-based communities of the significant hunger and malnutrition issues local children are facing and to demonstrate how each congregation could help generate the change necessary to help local hungry kids.

I received an open invitation for Pagan clergy to be involved from Kasha, outgoing First Officer of Everglades Moon Local Council and incoming National Board member for Covenant of the Goddess. Kasha felt it was important for a good Pagan clergy turnout for an interfaith summit of such an important issue. I attended as a representative of Church of Iron Oak, ATC and also in attendance was Jacquelyne En Aset, with Everglades Local Moon Council and Amber Moon, President of Central Florida Pagan Association and co-founder of Moon Path Pagans.

The summit brought together an impressive group of speakers to address the devastating effects that hunger has on the development of children. Undernourished children have problems such as fatigue, disinterest in learning and increased illness that sometimes keeps them out of school. School attendance is often the only chance many children have of getting a balanced, nourishing meal. It is often evident, as noted by the elementary school principals who spoke at the summit, that the Monday morning line for free breakfast was the longest and busiest of the week.

1,000 students are now being helped through the weekends thanks to the school backpack program but the waiting lists are long and not every school in the county is being served. The faith-based organizations will now have the opportunity to adopt a school financially, or pool resources for activities such as separating, packing and delivering the donated foods to area schools. Rob Rains, President of United Way of Brevard commented in his speech that often the difference between community based and faith-based relief projects is that faith-based initiatives are often started by a few volunteers and not always taken up when those individuals quit or move on. “It was good to discuss how local Pagan organizations can collaborate,” said Kasha.

The success of this program was evident from the passionate speeches given by the volunteers of this project. An example given is how excited the children are to be in what they call ‘The Backpack Club’ and is not seen by any as a stigma.  “I liked the motto…see a hungry child, buy food, feed the kid!” said Amber Moon.  “They said they were not there to fix the problem of why they are hungry…they just focus on feeding. Too many groups are trying to fix the why and kids stay hungry.”

For more information on how you can help The Children’s Hunger project, please visit http://www.thechildrenshungerproject.org/. Please also visit http://www.treasurecoastfoodbank.org/programs.html. For more information on pagan congregations on the East Coast of Florida please email scribe@ironoak.org

– See more at: http://florida.pagannewswirecollective.com/2013/11/11/2363/#sthash.WEr3jahQ.dpuf


Donations packed for delivery. Photo: The Children’s Hunger Project.