Delta Hands for Hope

To empower all children to have the education, leadership skills, and abilities to succeed.

Experiences with the Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program, a program run by the USDA to provide meals for children in low-income communities, made Delta Hands for Hope’s first summer camp possible. You have probably heard radio commercials or seen social media posts about this national program but may not understand its importance for communities like Shaw, MS. During the summer of 2014, our first summer in operation, Delta Hands for Hope served 416 meals to children in the community, and at the time, this number seemed huge. However, over the next two summers, we served over 10,000 meals! By participating in the Summer Food Service Program, we are providing a much needed resource for children in the community and expanding our outreach opportunities through communion and fellowship.

Bolivar County, where Shaw is located, has a childhood food insecurity rate of 31.9%, which is extremely high. This means that about one in three children who walk through our doors don’t have consistent access to nutritious food at home. During the school year, children can eat a free breakfast and lunch at school, but during school holidays, parents may struggle to provide healthy foods for their children. Because Shaw is roughly twelve miles from the nearest grocery store, access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be tricky for parents who don’t have access to consistent transportation. For many parents in Shaw, their access to groceries is limited to the stock at convenience stores, where most foods are processed and packaged. Summer months tend to be the worse time for children in food-insecure homes.

This number was hard for me to process. Because one in three children are food insecure, the entire Delta region has one of the highest concentrations of childhood food insecurity in the country. Nationwide, the food insecurity average is approximately one in seven.  I know the research, the statistics, and what these implications mean. And I encourage you to research food insecurity as well. But it’s another thing completely to have a relationship with these kids, to see their faces, and to know which kids don’t have enough food to eat at home. By interacting with the kids in Shaw, these statistics become personal.

Through the Summer Food Service Program, Delta Hands for Hope can feed nutritious meals to children all summer long. We have the resources to serve breakfasts and lunches that are healthy, filling, and expose children to various fruits and vegetables that they might not have access to otherwise. Even during the school year, we keep healthy snack options at our center because we don’t know who will have access to healthy foods at home. Participating in the Summer Food Service Program has been a fun journey for Delta Hands for Hope. We have introduced our youth to new fruits and vegetables, and foods that they don’t eat at home. We have learned how to compost our leftovers and how to plant some of our own vegetables in a community garden at McEvans School. During camp, we employ a local pastor to prepare the food for us, and our high school youth leaders help the younger children carry their plates to the table. We have had two different sponsors that help make the Summer Food Service Program possible, and we have sponsored other local non-profit sites as well. But most importantly, we have served hundreds of children thousands of meals.

When you support Delta Hands for Hope, you are helping us by providing excellent school year and summer programming for the children and young adults in Shaw. But you are also giving us the resources we need to make sure that every kid who comes to the center has food to eat. Providing food for children and youth is part of Delta Hands for Hope’s identity. As long as our doors are open, we will make sure that children have access to healthy food, and we are thankful that you and the Summer Food Service Program help us do that. 

From a mission partner

Another Voice on Missions from The Tapestry, a publication from Wilshire Baptist Church

If you’ve ever heard me talk about my hope for missions at Wilshire, you know I continu- ally preach two things. My first hope is that missions becomes an integral part of our identity as Christ followers and not just something we do. My second hope is that missions is not just about what we can give but what we can receive.

I believe our participation in God’s mission is a mutually transforming experience, which cannot happen without engaging in life-changing relationships.

Two years ago Wilshire entered into a partnership with a CBF- affiliated ministry in Shaw, Miss., called Delta Hands for Hope. Over the course of our two-year partnership we have sent
four mission teams to Shaw. These teams have completed many tasks, but more importantly have formed many new relationships. We have sent church members who have participated in worship at a local church, planned summer camp activities and completed building improvements at both McEvans Elementary School and the Delta Hands for Hope building.

Lane Riley, program coordinator for DHH commented: “Because of Wilshire teams, I have witnessed progress not only as a result of walls being painted or shelves being built. I’ve witnessed the personal growth of my youth when they realize they can dream big- ger, or when we have honest conversations about cultural differences and poverty.”

Because both Delta Hands for Hope and Wilshire value the idea of reciprocity in mission, we had the opportunity of receiving Delta Hands for Hope’s first mission team of 12 youth to Dallas last month. These youth participate in a leadership program and were required to volunteer at least four weeks at a local summer camp in order to travel to Dallas. At the beginning of the summer, 12 youth were trained, and at the end of the summer 12 youth walked away with job experi- ence, improved leadership skills and experience giving back to others.

While in Dallas, they volunteered with several of our local mission partners includ- ing CitySquare and Buckner, while also help- ing us host our reading camp at the Veranda @ Midtown apartments. This was the first time any of their youth have volunteered in a different community. Many of you invited them into your homes and prepared meals; they slept on the couches in the Youth Center and participated in our youth group events.

Lane extends her deepest appreciation to Wilshire for granting them this opportunity. “Shaw is an impoverished town, and there is much we don’t have. The community has seen many groups come to help us, and we are very grateful for all the selfless sacrifices others have made on our behalf. But this trip to Dallas has been an eye-opening experience for these youth leaders. My youth now know that although we need additional help in Shaw, they also have much to give. This trip allowed 12 youth from Shaw to use their gifts and skills to help another community. Thank you to Wilshire Baptist Church for welcoming us and for giving us the opportunity to give back.”

We plan on taking a team to Delta Hands for Hope in the spring and would love for you to make plans to join us.

—Heather Mustain, Minister of Missions, Wilshire Baptist Church

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