Posted: 4/2/20 at 7:00am. Written by Glenn Maddox.
No matter who is giving us information, one of the words we keep hearing in describing the COVID-19 pandemic is “unprecedented.” From how it has spread, to the restrictions we experience, to the response possibilities—everything feels new right now.
In Disaster Response, we find ourselves at a loss to apply to this situation what we already know how to do well. Most of what we do in disaster response centers on localized, large-scale disasters in which people who have not been affected can respond to help those who can. Everything is designed for a big response: feeding units can provide 15,000 meals a day, shower and laundry units can accommodate dozens of people, and housing people in large groups who can live in community together. But in this crisis, that kind of response would likely make things worse.
One of the things you hear a lot in disaster response circles is that “disaster is always local.” Moreso than any disaster, this one seems to be a disaster that will require a response that is intensely local. In thinking about that, I keep coming back to a memory I probably have in common with many others—Sunday lunch at Grandma’s house. Others’ experiences probably varied widely, but our Sunday gatherings were never more than 10 people. We all ate (usually at least part of the food from the garden), shared time together, and created great memories.
Imagine what could happen if our churches each offered what they could to small groups of people, right in their own communities, keeping social distancing in place and preparing food for distribution.
If we mobilized all of Virginia Baptist Disaster Response’s feeding units, we could provide approximately 42,000 meals per day—which is the equivalent of Sunday lunch (and breakfast and dinner) for 14,000. That’s the same amount of work one grandmother at each BGAV church could do for a family of 10. Imagine what could happen if our churches each offered what they could to small groups of people, right in their own communities, keeping social distancing in place and preparing food for distribution.
Of course, COVID-19 makes this response much different than Sunday lunch. We’ll need to be creative in how we prepare and distribute meals. We’ll need to change the way we prepare food—keeping our distance at a task that usually allows us to work closely together. And because of the coronavirus, the people who have the most experience cooking those Sunday meals (our grandparents) are the ones who are most vulnerable. Maybe this is our chance to prepare meals for them.
In the past week, our disaster response feeding leaders have created a document with guidelines to help you prepare food while following the precautions suggested by the CDC and Department of Health. You can access that document by clicking here. You’ll also find resources on gardening so you can help provide food for your church food pantry (and your family). Another helpful idea is for you to take the Virginia Baptist Disaster Response Feeding Training, which provides helpful general information on preparing food safely, and you can access that training by clicking here. Finally, you can use this form to share ways your church is willing to be a resource to your community, so we can share that information with communities who reach out in need. We can do this together—by serving where we are.
Glenn Maddox is BGAV’s National Mission Director for the Mission Development Team.