“Hunger is worse right now in Lincoln County than I’ve ever seen it in 26 years,” Susan Brymer, Christian Ministry’s executive director, told the Times-News Tuesday.
She hopes the nonprofit group’s annual soup kitchen fundraiser on Thursday will draw in additional money for the community’s hungry citizens.
“People in the community don’t see hunger the way we see it every day,” Brymer said. “Out of sight — out of mind.”
The soup kitchen, open 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, serves nearly 100 people per meal and with the aid of more than 3,600 volunteers annually, handed out a total of 35,028 meals in 2011.
“We’re just so thankful that the Lord calls these people everyday to come in and feed these hungry tummies,” Brymer said. “It’s not just a job; it’s a calling.”
She added that throughout the years, the soup kitchen has tried to pull its own weight in bills, separate from the other work of Christian Ministry. In addition, for the first time ever, the soup kitchen is trying to raise money to pay its one part-time employee.
Brymer praised both kitchen staff and volunteers for preparing only the best of meals for the community’s hungry, some of whom only eat one hot meal a day.
“I’m just so impressed with the length that the staff and volunteers go to make it a nice meal,” she said. “They have gleaning and gathering sessions every morning to see what’s available and what they can make out of it. It’s amazing what they can do.”
Since the economy plunged, Christian Ministry has seen an increase in two of its five services, including the soup kitchen and emergency services, which includes the food pantry and free daily food boxes that are handed out to certain, qualified individuals.
Brymer said it’s not just the area’s homeless who visit the soup kitchen but also those food box recipients who may not have enough to eat after trying to make their box stretch all month.
Christian Ministry officials said the soup kitchen is experiencing a “double-edged” crisis. Brymer said less food has been coming in to the organization, but the demand for food has doubled. While in past years, the soup kitchen handed out an average of 200 food boxes a month, the current need stands at more than 500.
“$20 just doesn’t buy as much as it used to,” she said. “Recovery in the economy has not reached that level yet that we see an improvement in soup kitchen numbers.”
However, 100 area churches continue to hold bi-annual food drives for the nonprofit organization. In addition, local grocery stores daily donate their surplus of food items.
Brymer also encourages residents to donate their extra home-grown fruits and vegetables.
“Don’t waste any garden produce,” she said. “It may be able to feed at least one more family.”
The annual soup kitchen fundraiser will be 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at 207 South Poplar St. in Lincolnton. Cost is $10, and all proceeds will go to benefit Christian Ministry, located at 230 East Water Street in Lincolnton.