Step 2. Find a building that is big enough not only to receive and store product, but also to process it for distribution.
Step 3. Contact local companies and national corporations to let them know what you are doing and ask if they will help. "Call first and ask who's in charge of donated products--for corporations, it's often the vice president of distribution; for local retailers, it's the shipping and receiving manager as well as the general manager," Murphy explains.
Step 4. Seek out local produce distributors that supply hospitals, restaurants and hotels. Often, orders are placed and then cancelled, to the benefit of your ministry.
Step 5. Maintain a big vision. Don't limit the Lord, but don't despise the day of small things. "Be open for God to expand your operation at any time," Murphy advises.
Murphy issues this caution when seeking product donations: Be clear about the volume your ministry is able to handle. Once you get a call indicating that food is available for pickup, you risk losing future donations if you have to refuse it--or worse, if you fail to get it at the designated time.
"This is where uniting with other ministries is important. If you know you cannot handle more than one truckload at a time, find other ministries that are also able to take product in bulk. When a corporation calls to tell you they have 10 truckloads and that's more than you can handle, pass the blessing on to the brother who can handle it."
Finally, Murphy reminds those in hunger relief ministry to never forget that God is their provision, a lesson he learned early on. Corporations and others that provide donations are a resource, he says, but God is the only true source.
"Any time we did what God told us to do, we received instant provision from Him," he recalls. "Every outreach needs to keep in mind that God is their source and that they need to be connected to a local church. We have to become family.
How to Get Involved
Several hunger relief ministries offer helpful resources for churches wanting to start a food distribution program.
If you want your church to get involved in a food distribution program--whether in your local area, elsewhere in the United States or in foreign countries--you can find the help you need from several national and international ministries. Here's an overview of three U.S.-based hunger relief organizations:
World Relief: This international relief arm of the National Association of Evangelicals emphasizes working through local churches, making it a good starting point for establishing a food distribution program in a particular congregation. The ministry offers a wealth of resources to help you get started, including videos, curriculum materials (for adults and children), special events highlighting the problem of hunger and customized project proposals. Contact the church relations staff at (630) 665-0235, or visit www.worldrelief.org and click on Church Relations to find a representative in your area of the country.
Feed the Hungry: Established in 1987 by Lester Sumrall, LeSEA Global Feed the Hungry also partners with local congregations, sending food, medical supplies and missions teams to Latin America aboard two ships that sail out of Jacksonville, Florida. Domestically the ministry, which also maintains 13 overseas offices, delivers truckloads of food to the poor and hungry across the United States, relying on local churches to help with distribution. An example of such partnering success is Bread of Life Church in Houston, which now feeds more than 9,000 people each month with the help of Feed the Hungry. For more information call (219) 291-3292 or visit www.feedthehungry.org.
Feed the Children: Here's another example of networking success. Feed the Children, founded by Larry Jones, distributes millions of pounds of food and supplies each year through 6,300 partner organizations, which in turn work with 50,000 local churches and groups that minister to the hungry. About 67 percent of the product is distributed domestically, with the rest sent to some 75 foreign countries. A ministry goal is to help families learn to stop relying on relief assistance by becoming productive and self-sufficient. Call (800) 627-4556 or visit www.christianity.com/feedthechildren for more information.
For further information on Harvest Time International--John and Mary Murphy's ministry--call (407) 328-9900 or write HTI, 131 Maritime Drive, Sanford, Florida 32771.
Marcia Ford is a freelance editor and writer who lives in DeBary, Florida. She is a former news editor for Ministry Today.