The goal of any church is to help people who are in need. Whether that be through giving presents to children at Christmas, giving school supplies to less fortunate children or helping people find God, churches aim to help people. At several churches in DeKalb County, Indiana, giving free meals to the hungry are how they help out the community.
I grew up in the Waterloo United Methodist Church (WUMC) and in 2012, we started serving a free meal every Wednesday to anyone who needed or wanted it. The program was called Cup of Cold Water (CoCW) and it was started in January 2009 at the Auburn Nazarene Church in Auburn, Indiana.
Brad Harris, the head of CoCW, said the program was started when “four teenage girls were discovered in the kitchen, having locked themselves inside in order to eat. When questions were asked, it was discovered that more than a few children and teen homes were food insecure, meaning meals were questionable at best, and non-existent at worst.”
In Indiana, the average food insecurity rate is at 15.3 percent according to feedingamerica.org. The USDA defines food insecurity as the lack of access, at times, to enough food for all household members.
Just 10 months after CoCW launched, it was transferred to the DeKalb Community Impact Corporation (DCIC). The transfer occurred because the demand for the meals was getting too much for just the Auburn Nazarene Church to handle all the meals they were serving.
There are seven churches in DeKalb County that are a part of the CoCW program: Auburn Nazarene (Tuesday & Wednesday), Auburn Church of Christ (Tuesday youth group), Butler Nazarene (Wednesday), Waterloo United Methodist (Wednesday), First Christian Church of Auburn (Friday) and Butler Church of Christ (3rd Saturday monthly).
The amount of people that come to each meal depends on the location and also week to week at the same location. As far as the WUMC goes, they bring in 18 to 22 people on average from week to week.
The mission statement of CoCW according to the DCIC website is, “Cup of Cold Water is love in action. It understands that in order to show a hurting person the love of Jesus we must help meet some of their physical needs. Cup of Cold Water provides five meals each week at four sites. No questions asked. No forms to complete. No guidelines. Just love in action. Sharing a healthy meal with a hungry child, teenager, or adult to show them that God loves them and so do we.”
The members of CoCW strive to spread the word of God not only by offering a free meal, but offering fellowship as well. Before each meal is served at the various churches, a prayer is said to bless the food and the hands that have prepared it. During or after the meal, there is time for devotions normally guided by the pastor of the church which is a short message to spread the word of God.
Elkhart County, much like DeKalb, is doing its part to help feed the hungry as well. Elkhart County has an organization similar to the DCIC in Dekalb County called Faith Mission of Elkhart INC. Faith Mission has three locations within 10 miles that serve free meals throughout the week. Faith Mission of Elkhart provides two meals, lunch and dinner, a day, every day of the year. Faith Mission also has two other locations that serve meals regularly.
Elkhart County has many other places that offer free meals throughout the week and are not associated with the Faith Mission of Elkhart. The Window is one of the most well-known places in the Goshen area. The Window provides three meals a day Monday-Friday. Donuts and coffee from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to12:30 p.m., and sandwiches from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Both programs, CoCW and Faith Mission of Elkhart, are not looking to expand right now but they are open to expanding if the opportunity presents itself. Harris of CoCW added, “Presently, Cup of Cold Water is not in expansion talks although we would welcome any opportunity to discuss meal service at more locations.”