Do you know someone who’s hungry?
We’re not talking about a person’s drive. We’re talking about the pain that gnaws at the edge of their stomach for days or weeks without the proper access or financial resources to alleviate that pain.
According to a 2018 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, more than 11% of households across the country are food insecure. Food security is most prevalent in single-mother households, including the homes of more than 11 million children.
Although Idaho’s food insecurity population is below the national average, that doesn’t mean the problem isn’t worth addressing. Pastor Buddy Gharring and the Twin United Methodist Church are making sure the food insecurity conversation is top of mind through their program, Everybody Eats.
“Everybody Eats is a program committed to the idea that everyone deserves access to healthy, wholesome, quality food,” Buddy said. “To that end, we’re addressing food insecurity on a sustainable and immediate front.”
A Sustainable Model for Food Security
On the last Sunday of each month, Everybody Eats provides a free food education class and meal to individuals experiencing food insecurity. Addressing community hunger isn’t a new phenomenon, but Buddy and members of his church believe that approaching food insecurity through the lens of education and accessibility has a more profound impact.
“We knew right out of the gate that the sustainability, labor and cost of the traditional soup kitchen model wasn’t realistic,” Buddy said. “Those barriers often lead to gray, bland experiences, and leave people with food insecurity shuffled in to an environment full of carb-loaded, mass produced meals that are slopped on to a plate.”
Instead, by partnering with local, volunteer chefs, Everybody Eats is able to offer meals that are health conscious, affordable and easy to replicate.
“We make sure our meals address health issues like diabetes by avoiding food with high sugar or high carb content,” said Buddy. “We also think about their budget. Every meal we make only costs $4 in groceries to recreate.”
Those who attend an Everybody Eats cooking class are sent home with a recipe card and, with the help of a newly added food pantry, people are often also able to leave with some of the ingredients in hand.
“We do all of the food purchasing, recruiting and promoting to make it easy on our chefs and the participants,” explained Buddy. “That gives time back to our volunteer chefs who can focus their energy on creating meals and teaching their skills to people who are excited to learn.”
When You’re Here, You’re Family
Although food insecurity is closely related to poverty, not all people living below the poverty line experience food insecurity. Similarly, food insecurity can leave its mark on individuals and families from all walks of life. The table at Everybody Eats includes a diverse mix of backgrounds, ages and races, and is open to anyone who feels they are constantly forced to make poor food decisions due to budget constraints.
“We wanted to make sure we didn’t create a system in which the socioeconomic lines are preserved or dug in deeper,” said Buddy. “We wanted to break down those lines and create a situation where we all become friends and family together, we all eat together, and we all connect together.”
For Buddy, the success of Everybody Eats was best exemplified during their 2019 Christmas feast.
“The tables were set up in a way so that it was one long, contiguous table where everyone sat together. I remember looking around at nearly 85 people, looking at the delicious meal, seeing everyone cooking and eating together and thinking, this is the dream – it’s come to life.”
To date, Everybody Eats has served more than 500 free meals to people in the food insecure community and hosted cooking classes for over 50 individuals.
“Twin Falls is really set up for this type of program,” Buddy said. “It’s a community that deeply cares for people and has a strong desire to connect and be part of something bigger than themselves.”
To learn more about Everybody Eats or to volunteer as a chef or event assistant, visit https://www.twin.church/everybodyeats.