Nearly half of the deaths of children under five years old are caused by poor nutrition. About 795 million people are chronically malnourished. While that number has been reduced over the past decade, it is still astronomically high and the percentage of the world’s population living with food insecurity is appalling.
Feeding the hungry is biblical. A large crowd had followed Jesus to a deserted place and the day was waning. When he realized that they were hungry he fed them – in abundance. Beginning with only five loaves and two fish, Jesus met the needs of the people. All ate until they were filled and twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered. In the early church leaders noticed that some of the Hellenistic (Greek) widows were missing out on the daily distribution of food. The solution was to choose and set apart seven deacons to make sure that those women were no longer neglected. And when Jesus described the great judgment, those who were judged worthy of the kingdom asked what they had done to merit that. Jesus said “I was hungry and you fed me…” and then explained that whenever they had cared for the “least of these” it was as though they had taken care of him.
The list of biblical examples of the responsibility to feed the hungry goes on and on. Part of our mission as people of faith is to meet the physical needs of the most vulnerable people around us. That is why mission opportunities like “Stop the Hunger” are so important for the church. The thousands of meals that we just packed will go to at-risk families in Belize, or Guatemala, or Lesotho – or dozens of other nations around the globe, including the United States. If we truly love others as Christ has challenged us to do – in essence, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves – then the needs of our neighbors will be as pressing as the needs of our own families. Filling those bags with life-saving meals was more than a practical response to a physical need: it was a spiritual response to Jesus’ need. For whatever we have done for the least of these, we have done for him.