Food insecurity, or the lack of access to enough food for all members of a household, is something that exists in every part of America. In fact, some 49 million Americans struggle to provide regular meals for their families.
This isn’t due to food availability as it might be in more improvised countries. No, in the land of plenty, it is instead due to a prevalence of poverty, resulting in the inability for many families to afford the food they need. One Virginia church witnessed this need in their community and decided to do something about the problem.
Vineyard Church in Hampton, Virginia recently came up with a great way to combat hunger within their community and founded what they call The Storehouse. This, in essence, is a store located on the church grounds. Though the groceries and household items available aren’t free, the prices are greatly reduced when compared to area prices, making them affordable for families who need a little help.
In actuality, the Storehouse has been open since October 2015. However, it was originally set up as a benefit for church members only, according to Pastor Jacob Hopson. The area need grew larger after their initial opening, causing the church leadership to open it to the general public.
“We went from once a month to every Saturday to doing it weekly,” he said. “It went from doing it two or three days a week to doing it five days a week now and opening it up to the general public. We started off and saw that our members had about a 75% reduction in their grocery budget.”
The grand relaunching of the Storehouse occurred on April 15th. Since its beginning, an amazing 18,000 people have benefited from the store. The relaunching ceremony was attended by community members and politicians alike.
The Storehouse provides a variety of items to families at deeply discounted prices. Items like meat, dairy and produce are attainable as are poptarts and laundry detergent, making it much like a typical grocery store.
“We don’t do anything like skirt steak, we actually do filet mignon and New York strip. We do bone-in sirloin,” Pastor Hopson said. “We do high-end stuff that keeps them eating like kings and queens on a pauper’s budget.”
WAVY estimates that as many as 16 to 26% of Hampton area residents currently suffer from food insecurity, making The Storehouse a much-needed ministry.
“The area that we are in is an economically challenged area,” Hopson added. “Even though it is down the street from the beach, there are a lot of drugs in the area. Not only are we doing this in helping them in their need, but we are actually here to help some people get off the drugs. We are still doing other missions of the church, but we are just doing this aspect as well.”
Hopson went on to explain that the store staff is encouraged to show love to all who enter, not necessarily preach at them. In fact, the store is open to people of all faith, even accommodating Muslim and Jewish shoppers.
Presently, The Storehouse is opened Tuesday through Saturday to the general public and to church members only on Sunday. Each customer is assisted by a personal shopper who helps them through the store and holds their basket. Customers are even assisted to their car after paying for their items. On a busy day, Hopson says as many as 30 customers will visit The Storehouse.
Around 45 to 50 church members, along with two or three outside donors currently support The Storehouse. The store marks their food up no more than $0.20 above what the ministry paid for the product. Any profits made on the items go right back into the ministry. The Storehouse also accepts food stamps and EBT as a form of payment.
The Storehouse is a unique answer to a common problem facing every community in America, that being food insecurity. Hopefully, more and more churches across the nation will follow the Christ-like example set by The Vineyard Church and create their own community outreach ministries.
~ 1776 Christian