Jell-O molds. Cookies. Hot-dish surprise. Kitchens filled with the aroma of Crock-Pot bean recipes simmering all afternoon. Where Lutherans savor potlucks, such potluck staples bring in hungry members and visitors alike at the promise of good food and fellowship.
But that’s not all potlucks can do. Potlucks can also combat world hunger.
Three years ago, two ELCA pastors from different states started exchanging recipes via Facebook. What started as a few friendly postings grew into a cyberpotluck involving friends and colleagues. About 20 to 30 or more recipes would pour in each day, and this started the pastors thinking: How could they use real potlucks to help change the world?
The answer: A Month of Potlucks. Kimberly Conway, pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church in Dale City, Va., and Michael Poole, pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Urbana, Ohio, determined that the fruits of their Facebook labors could be used to help end world hunger. Though the “official” month of potlucks is held in June, any time of year is suitable for a congregation or ELCA group to hold a potluck.
During the month of June — and other times throughout the year — participating congregations and groups gather to eat, learn more about world hunger, volunteer at local agencies and raise money for the work of ELCA World Hunger. “If every member of the ELCA went to one potluck and donated one dollar,” said Michael, “we would raise $4.6 million.”
The inaugural year for A Month of Potlucks was 2009, beginning in March, and initially was communicated solely by word of mouth. In that time, 27 congregations or communities participated across eight states.
Of the groups that reported in, 725 people attended the potlucks and raised $4,433 for ELCA World Hunger. Not a bad beginning!
As of Jan. 21, 2011, over $9,900 had been raised for ELCA World Hunger. Over 1,830 people participated from 34 of the 50 states, and all the synods in Region 6 held potlucks.
Also, in 2011 the name of the program was changed to Potlucks to End World Hunger, and a new goal is a potluck a day to achieve 365 reported potlucks, with at least one meal in each of the 65 synods.
When will you or your congregation hold a potluck to combat hunger? Make it festive and hold one during a major holiday like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or Christmas. Do it near World Food Day (Oct. 22) or Thanksgiving to reinforce the fact that when many of us gather with friends and family for large meals, over 1 billion people will go to bed hungry.
Be creative. Make your favorite recipes and bring them to the potluck. Sell raffle tickets if you can get local businesses to donate prizes in exchange for mentioning them at the potluck. Utilize resources at ELCA World Hunger’s website to educate others during the potluck. There you will find Hunger Jeopardy (fun for all ages), hunger facts, a hunger quiz and more.
In a world where 1 billion people struggle to have enough food to eat, a traditional Lutheran activity centered on faith and fellowship literally can help save lives. Please join Potlucks to End World Hunger and share your community’s love for the neighbor with those who need it most.