Skip to content

ELCA Blogs

“That We May Live Together”: From Challenges to Opportunities


Supported in part by ELCA World Hunger, the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in Japan is a nine-month service leadership training program that draws people from around the world, allowing them to live and work together as they learn agricultural skills they can take back to their home communities. ARI also invites guest lecturers from Japan and abroad to teach sustainable development, organic farming and more. 

Through this model, ARI empowers leaders from around the world to build community, embrace diversity, value rural life, see the dignity of labor, promote food sovereignty and live in harmony with nature. Graduates return to their home countries equipped to work in sustainable development, build relationships with local leaders and transform their communities. Participants also receive ongoing support from ARI in identifying funding and leadership opportunities.  

As the impact of COVID-19 began to ripple around the world this spring, countries closed their borders and airports and flights were changed or canceled. Out of 26 students who’d planned to participate in ARI this year, only seven arrived in Japan; the others encountered travel restrictions and other challenges.  

Four ARI participants from Sierra Leone were at the closest Japanese consulate — in Accra, Ghana — applying for visas to enter Japan when Sierra Leone closed its borders and the government in Ghana ordered a nationwide lockdown. The participants obtained their Japanese visas, but the airports and borders were closed, so they couldn’t leave the country.  

This is when ARI reached out to its graduates in Ghana for help. John Yeboah, a 2018 graduate, answered the call, providing safety, food and lodging for the travelers. He escorted them from Accra to Kumasi by bus and took care of their needs while they awaited travel news.

Modeling what he had experienced during his training in Japan, John even worked with ARI to start the participants’ training right where they were. He led them in morning exercise, time-management techniques, leadership training and coaching, and discussion and reflection sessions.  

Participants from Asian Rural Institute are pictured

John Yeboah (second from left), a graduate of the Asian Rural Institute in Japan, is pictured with the four students from Sierra Leone and two local farmers at a pig farm in Kumasi, Ghana.

For the first few weeks, COVID-19 restrictions prevented Ghanaians from traveling to their fields. Eventually, restrictions were loosened, allowing the group to begin the agricultural portion of their unexpected training program. Following the ARI curriculum, they practiced growing crops such as cabbage, beets, carrots, chili peppers, okra, lettuce, spring onion, mint, spinach and cucumber on John’s organic farm

ARI staff have called John’s work a testament to the impact of the ARI training program on a community. With his display of servant leadership and his ability to adjust in a time of crisis, John turned a challenging and stressful situation into an unexpected time of learning and bonding for the Sierra Leone participants. Despite the difficult year, John and people like him around the world are demonstrating adaptability, ingenuity and Christ’s love for the neighbor.

Because of the work of God bringing people together across borders and through challenges, a farmer from Ghana guided students from Sierra Leone in a training program established by an institute in Japan, with funding from congregations and individuals in the US. Truly, John’s story, made possible in part because of gifts to ELCA World Hunger, reflects ARI’s motto: “That they may live together,” no matter the distances that keep us apart.

This story was originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of Boundless. View the full publication here. 


Protecting a Transgender Community in India from COVID-19


Tara loves dancing and, from childhood, always wanted to dance in front of an audience. Now 30 years old, she often performs at festivals and cultural functions, her performances described as “heart-touching.” Tara even performed at the Bali Jatra festival, a popular trade fair and market in Cuttack, India, where she lives.

Tara has been living away from her family for years because she is a transgender woman and faces discrimination from her family and the members of their community. When she came out as transgender at age 8, her father refused to support her and her brother would abuse her in public. Tara felt unsafe in her home, despite the love and acceptance she received from her mother. Eventually, Tara left her family and found a sense of belonging in a transgender community in Cuttack, where she felt safe to be her authentic self and pursue her dancing.

Women in Tara’s community receiving food and hygiene packages from LWSIT.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Tara sometimes struggled to obtain enough food. When India went under lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020, getting food and other necessities became even more challenging because some shops closed. There were no more festivals or performances where Tara could dance and earn an income. During this time, nonprofit organizations reached out to vulnerable communities and supplied them with food and cash support, but the health care needs of Tara and her neighbors were overlooked.

When Lutheran World Service India Trust (LWSIT) received a COVID-19 response grant from Lutheran Disaster Response, it prioritized supporting marginalized populations such as the transgender community in Cuttack. The organization
distributed hygiene kits to Tara and her neighbors, which included bath soap, antiseptic liquid soap and face masks.
She and her neighbors are grateful to all the organizations that met their basic needs, but commended LWSIT for being the only organization to offer health and hygiene support.

“We are thankful to LWSIT during this situation,” said Tara. “LWSIT staff are helping through hygiene kit relief distribution to keep our health and hygiene safe from the effects of coronavirus.” She now feels safer and more prepared to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in her community.

Since the pandemic began, LWSIT has supported the communities most vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition to Tara and the transgender community, LWSIT accompanies migrant workers and women-headed households and operates an urban homeless shelter. It distributes hygiene kits and food packages and provides livelihood training and food-for-work opportunities to those who have lost their unemployment due to the pandemic.

LWSIT is just one of many organizations and companion churches around the world that provide holistic support to vulnerable communities during this crisis. By responding to a wide range of disasters, including COVID-19, Lutheran Disaster Response follows Christ’s call to share hope and healing.


Situation Report: COVID-19 in India


Be a part of the response:

Please pray for people who have been affected by the COVID-19 surge in India. May God’s healing presence give them peace and hope in their time of need.

Thanks to generous donations, Lutheran Disaster Response is able to respond quickly and effectively to disasters around the globe. Your gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response (Give where needed most) will be used to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and other disasters.

To learn more about the situation and the ELCA’s response:

  • Sign up to receive Lutheran Disaster Response alerts.
  • Check the Lutheran Disaster Response blog.
  • Like Lutheran Disaster Response on Facebook, follow @ELCALDR on Twitter, and follow @ELCA_LDR on Instagram.
  • Download the situation report and share as a PDF.

A Year Like No Other


St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church’s Lunchtime Ministry offers a warm meal, hospitality and community to neighbors in Hoboken, New Jersey. This important work is supported in part by a Domestic Hunger Grant from ELCA World Hunger. Stanley Enzweiler is the Program Manager of St. Matthew Trinity’s Lunchtime Ministry and has worked with the ministry since 2016. In this post, Stanley reflects on the uncertainty and stress the community faced in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic – and on the hope, hard work and perseverance that has kept Lunchtime Ministry going. You can read a previous post from Stanley here.

March 16th, 2020, I didn’t want to open the door. The guests, I knew, were crowded outside, ready to rush in, grab a seat, and line up for coffee. They were expecting a long, leisurely morning with steaming cups of soup served to their tables by volunteers who knew their names. At Lunchtime Ministry (LTM), a soup kitchen/drop-in center in the heart of Hoboken, New Jersey, everything is free: the coffee, the wifi, the laughter, and the community. Today, all that was about to change.

I unlocked the door. “Hang on, everyone,” I said. “You have to come in one at a time. Wash your hands, and then I will give you a bagged lunch. We’re serving everything to go.”

For years, LTM had been a pillar of stability in people’s lives. We were open every Monday to Thursday, holidays and blizzards be darned. Some of our guests had gone through the same routine every day for years.

But that weekend in March 2020, the country had shut down around us. A new world had arrived. The virus could be anywhere.  Masks were not yet required, and people argued about whether gloves did any good. Instead of saying “Goodbye,” we told each other to “Stay safe.”

LTM was shutting down too. Our priority was keeping each other healthy—but avoiding COVID was just part of the picture. It was cold outside, and our guests had nowhere to go.  Some of them stopped coming to LTM, and I still don’t know where they ended up.  One woman sat down on the floor in front of the coffee machine and refused to leave.

We worked with the Hoboken Shelter and the local welfare office to lodge some of our older and less healthy guests in hotel rooms. As much as this helped space out our homeless population, several of our hotel guests continued to come to LTM every morning. That’s how much our community mattered.

As the summer went by, we borrowed an idea pioneered by some restaurants in Hoboken and opened up our own strEATery: outdoor tables and chairs where guests could sit together and enjoy to-go food. This gave us back a taste of the community we had missed so much. In Autumn, we began reopening for volunteers and asking our community to donate hot dishes, which we served in to-go cups.  And when temperatures dropped, we opened back up inside. We have limited our capacity in accordance with statewide regulations, and we have continued to enforce hand-washing, masks, and social distancing. Of course, it is much more work serving people inside than providing food to go, but having our community back has been worth it.

We have worked closely with other local services, including the Hoboken Shelter, the city’s food pantries, and the county’s clinics. We have provided our guests, volunteers, and community members with onsite flu shots, health screenings, and, this spring, over 150 COVID-19 vaccines. Individuals, schools, restaurants and spas from across the country have overwhelmed us with their support, donating food, hygiene items and money; spreading the word about LTM; and providing moral support. At least once a week, I hear from a former volunteer who wants to say hello and see how they can help.


This has been a year like no other. We are not used to thinking on our feet and changing things up at LTM, especially not when lives hang in the balance. But everyone has had to adapt this year, and through it all, LTM has continued to be there for our guests. We have provided as many services as we can while keeping our population healthy.

Who knows what the next steps will be?  Regardless, we’ll take them.

God’s work through the guests, volunteers and community members at LTM still continues – and continues to thrive! As of April 2021, over 500 vaccines have been distributed through LTM and its partners. With more community members protected, LTM has been able to offer more events at its site, including screenings for HIV, blood pressure, and glucose levels, haircuts for guests, assistance signing up for health insurance and housing, and fundraisers to keep the ministry going.


New Data Available: Hunger and Poverty by the Numbers for 2020


Knowing the numbers for hunger and poverty can go a long way to helping us talk about the issues accurately and craft effective, forward-looking responses. For those who share with their congregation information about hunger and poverty, these numbers can also be helpful in putting together presentations or workshops.Below, we have compiled the data from the most reliable sources we have for official numbers on poverty and hunger in the United States and around the world. You can download the slides to put directly into a presentation or use the numbers in your communications and work. You can also download the entire Power Point presentation at the link at the end.

Of course, we know with the COVID-19 pandemic that many of these numbers are already out-of-date. We have some estimates of how the pandemic is impacting hunger and poverty, but no solid data has yet been published. At the end of this post, we’ll go over what we know so far about COVID’s impact. (To no one’s surprise, it’s not good.)

ELCA World Hunger relies on several sources for data:

*One important note before we get started is that data are always for previous years. Below, we’ve indicated what years are being measured by the data. These are the most up-to-date statistics available from the sources. All statistics, graphs and charts come from the respective sources listed above.

U.S. Poverty

We’ll start off with data about the United States. Here are the thresholds used to measure poverty in 2019:

The poverty thresholds are reported here as averages for households by number of people. The Census Bureau takes into account the age of householders and the number of children to determine the threshold. So, for example, for a household of four, the average poverty threshold is $26,172. The range, though, is $26,017-26,370, depending on the characteristics of the household. You can see another example in the slide under the household of a single person.

Another important point here is that the poverty thresholds differ from the poverty guidelines. The guidelines are used to determine eligibility for certain government programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly food stamps). The guidelines don’t vary based on age or number of children. The thresholds are used to measure poverty. The thresholds are based on three times the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963, adjusted for inflation.

To be considered “in poverty” in the US, a household’s income must be below the threshold.

To be considered eligible for some government assistance programs, a household’s income must be below (or below a certain multiple) of the poverty guideline.

One of the ongoing concerns in the US is racial disparities in poverty (as a note, these categories are the identifiers used by the US Census Bureau):

In addition to the official poverty measure, the US Census Bureau also calculates a Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM.) You can read more about the differences here, but one of the interesting things the SPM lets us see is how certain safety net programs and benefits help alleviate poverty. It also allows us to estimate how much certain costs contribute to poverty. In the chart below, we can track the change in the number of people in poverty when each element individually is included. For example, we can see in the chart that SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) helped keep about 2.5 million people out of poverty in 2019.

U.S. Food Security

Turning to food security in the United States, we can see a slight decrease from 2018 to 2019. The USDA uses the term “food insecurity” instead of “hunger” to capture more accurately the situation for most people in the US. Food insecurity means that at some point during the year, a household lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. Chronic hunger, the kind we’ll get to when we turn to global hunger, is relatively rare in the US. The phrase the USDA uses is “recurrent not chronic,” which means that households experience periods of food insecurity throughout the year, but this is usually not persistent day-to-day. For many, periods of food insecurity come at the end of the month (when benefits run out) or during seasons when work is harder to come by.

In the US in 2019, almost 11% of individuals were food-insecure. This is about 35.2 million people.


Child food insecurity in the US is really hard to measure for a couple reasons. First, children, especially young children, are usually the last people in a household to experience food insecurity. Often, adults or older children will give up their food to ensure the younger ones have enough to eat. There are also some programs specifically geared toward school-age children that can help, like the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs. Because of the difficulty in measuring child food insecurity, the notes on the slide are carefully phrased. We can say how many children lived in households where children and adults faced food insecurity, though the data from the USDA don’t allow us to say for sure that every child in that household was food insecure.

The situation for people facing very low food security in the US is concerning. Of the 5.3 million households reporting very low food security,

  • 48 percent said that an adult in the household lost weight because they couldn’t afford food;
  • 36 percent said that an adult did not eat for a whole day because there wasn’t enough money for food; and
  • 97 percent said that an adult had reduced the amount of food they ate because they couldn’t afford sufficient food for every household member.

Global Poverty

Global extreme poverty is defined as income below $1.90 per day. The numbers point to some tremendous progress since 1990, when about 35 percent of people worldwide were experiencing extreme poverty. The biggest contributor to this decline, according to the World Bank, has been economic growth, particularly in Asia.

This does tend to miss another trend in global poverty, though. Fewer and fewer people are living today in what might be called “low-income” countries. What this means is that there needs to be more of an emphasis on poverty within middle- and high-income countries. Because of this, the World Bank has started measuring poverty at higher levels, since participation in a labor market in a middle-income or high-income is more expensive than in a low-income country. The general decline in the graphs also doesn’t clearly show that progress against poverty worldwide has been slowing in the last few years. Keeping the decline from leveling out will take more investment and more concerted, coordinated efforts.

Global Hunger

While poverty has declined, the same can’t be said for hunger. (We’ll get to how COVID-19 has made this even more troublesome later.)  The most recent data we have is from 2019, so this doesn’t include the impact of the pandemic yet.

The rate of undernourishment globally has remained pretty stable since 2014. Before then, the world made some good progress, bringing the rate of undernourishment down from over 12% in 2005 to less than 9% in 2014. But in the last 5 years, the rate has crept up from 8.6% to 8.9%, or about 687.8 million people.

This slowed progress means, sadly, that we are no longer on track to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger.

The next slide shows some of the key drivers of hunger and poverty around the world. Some of the biggest causes are conflict and climate change. Climate change, for instance, is expected to drive 68-132 million people into poverty over the next ten years. (See this earlier post for a discussion of some of the ways climate change causes hunger.)

One of the interesting things the World Bank found in its research is the complexity of vulnerability to climate events. People living in poverty are not necessarily more likely to experience major climate events, but they are less likely to have the resources needed for resilience. They are more likely to have lower quality housing, more likely to be dependent on fragile infrastructure (such as unpaved roads), more vulnerable to food price increases, more dependent on agriculture and so on. So, people in poverty will not necessarily experience more climate events, but they will be more vulnerable to the short- and long-term consequences of them.

Just one note here on trade policies. Policies that protect local producers are important to ensure a fair marketplace. But these policies also tend to protect crops such as cereals and grains. This can lead to a dearth of affordable nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and higher-quality starches. Remember, undernourishment is not just about how many calories we consume but what kinds of calories we can access. Trade policies can play a critical role in this, both for the better and the worse.

COVID-19 Impacts

Global Impacts

There is no way of sugar-coating this. COVID-19 is causing hunger and poverty to rise at an incredible pace. The problem isn’t just how many people are affected but how quickly we were affected and how many industries were impacted.

One thing to remember is that these are estimates. We have not yet received reliable numbers, so these are projections. They’re very solid projections, but they are still just projections. Another thing to keep in mind is that, while news media may report these estimates under the collective term “hunger,” the organizations creating these estimates aren’t always talking about the same thing. There have also been big problems with collecting data, obviously.

Let’s start with how COVID-19 impacts hunger. There are four big categories of impacts.

First, food production. Agriculture and food processing require a lot of human labor. With limited mobility, workers aren’t able to get to work. If they get sick, they can’t work. Plants may shut down, too, so there is a shortage of pathways for getting food from farms to tables and stores. The International Food Policy Research Institute notes that people in poverty are most affected in this category because they are dependent on their labor for income. When they can’t work, they don’t get paid.

Next, food utilization. This has eased a bit over the last year, but with trade barriers in place to prevent the spread of COVID, countries that are dependent on exports from other countries can’t get the food they need for markets. With hoarding of food, there is also a shift toward shelf-stable goods, which are not always the healthiest.

Third is food access, and this is the category that is hardest hit. Markets have closed, we’ve seen supply chain bottlenecks, and consumers have less money to spend. We saw this in the US last year, when processing plant closures led to bottlenecks that created shortages of chicken and beef in stores. There was plenty of meat being produced, but it couldn’t get to markets where we could buy it. We’ve also seen some concerning increases in food prices over the last year. That’s good for some farmers, but not great news for most folks around the world, whose income leaves them very sensitive to changes in food prices.

Last, social protection. As of last Fall, 73 countries had postponed elections or referendums, which makes them socially vulnerable. Also, many countries lack robust social safety nets, so there aren’t protections to help people weather the economic risks of the pandemic. And, of course, the pandemic has closed feeding sites and has forced healthcare programs to shift from nutrition and other priorities to COVID response. We have to remember that even as we deal with COVID, problems like waterborne illnesses, HIV/AIDS, and malaria are still significant issues.

The economic impact is expected to be severe, though it won’t be equally felt by everyone.

The World Bank estimated that in 2020, COVID would cause a contraction of about 4.4% of global GDP. The consequences are widespread, too. Informal workers, especially, have been hard hit by lost income. Remittances, monies that are sent from workers in one country to families or dependents in their home countries, are down significantly. These were expected to decrease by about 20% in 2020. Women worldwide may be the hardest hit group, because they tend to be overrepresented in particularly vulnerable occupations, such as healthcare and home care, and because they face an added risk of violence at home during shutdowns. One note is worth making here. The World Food Programme’s observation about the economic conseuqneces being more severe than the disease itself is included on the slide. But it is important to remember that these impacts are being measured with the restrictive measures put in place to slow the pandemic in mind. Without these restrictions, the disease itself would also have severe impacts, including much wider loss of life.

All this combines to make some pretty stark projections for poverty worldwide.

The current number of people living in poverty is 689 million. If global GDP contracts by 5%, then an additional 88 million people will have been added to that number by the end of 2020. If global GDP contracts by 8% (the high end of estimates), then we will be looking at an increase of 115 million, or a total of 804 million people in poverty. Remember, these were estimates for the end of 2020. With the pandemic still raging into 2021, these projections may be worse now, and in fact, some data suggest that global GDP already contracted by more than 5% by the end of last year.

Now to hunger. Last year, there were two estimates floating around that seem to have caused some confusion. Back in April 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that the number of people facing hunger could double by the end of the year, to 265 million.

“But, wait!” you might say, “I thought the number of hungry people was almost 690 million.” What the WFP was referring to is the number of people facing what is called “crisis-level hunger,” based on a classification called IPC/CH Phase 3. This is, as the term implies, a short-term crisis of hunger, not the long-term undernourishment we refer to typically as “hunger.” The estimate is based on the number of people who are vulnerable to a crisis (in the earlier phase of IPC/CH) falling into crisis-level hunger in 2020.

An estimate that more closely tracks with what we have been calling “hunger” is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) estimate of 83 to 132 million people. This maps to the statistic that ELCA World Hunger and other organizations use to refer to “people who are hungry,” namely the number of people who are undernourished.

So, the 265 million people from the WFP’s estimate could become part of the population that is chronically undernourished, but the two estimates refer to different things. The most consistent way to talk about COVID’s impact on hunger, then, would be to say that the number of people who are chronically undernourished could have grown by 83 to 132 million by the end of 2020, while as many as 265 million more people could be facing a hunger crisis. We’ll need to wait for new data later this year to see how close the estimates were.

The key point here is that the most conservative estimate was that both hunger and poverty each grew by about 12 percent in the last year. That is a staggering number.

And, as the slide mentions, there is not a single root cause of hunger that is not untouched by the pandemic, from employment to health care to food access to climate change. Everything is affected.

Domestic United States

The news for the US isn’t much better, though federal legislation (through the CARES Act, the HEROES Act and the COVID relief included in the spending reauthorization bill) have masked some of the possible effects of the pandemic. Using Census data on poverty and income, the US Department of Health and Human Services estimated in October that poverty would grow to 10.9% by the end of the year, with a big jump in the Fall and early Winter. As you can see in the slide, though, the rates and estimates reflect what we already know about racial disparities in poverty in the US:

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) did an analysis of economic vulnerability that was really disheartening. FRAC estimates that almost 50% of adults in the US either lost their own job or were “on the edge,” which means they experienced a loss of income or reduced hours, expected to lose their job, or had a household member lose their job during COVID.

So, what does this mean in the US? First, estimates suggest that domestic hunger has already doubled or tripled since the start of the pandemic. More than a quarter of US adults are economically insecure. Importantly, the social safety net – including increases to or easing restrictions of programs like SNAP and WIC, eviction moratoria, and the expansion of the school meals program for children – have been working. Sort of. They aren’t enough, and many of the programs still aren’t available to everyone. But they have helped dampen some of the effects of the pandemic. That’s important to remember. These estimates and projections are what we have with this legislation. One can only imagine what would have happened without it.

One of the most worrisome trends is in food security in the US, which has spiked incredibly since early 2020. What is very concerning here is that we may be seeing a shift from “recurrent not chronic” hunger in the US to chronic hunger for many people.

And there we have it. We are still using the data available to us last year, covering hunger and poverty from 2019, generally, but we know that the situation has dramatically worsened, even since these reports were published. In the US, vaccination has given some a measure of hope, but access to vaccines and treatments is still far below what it needs to be in many places around the world. We are far from the end in terms of the economic impact of this. We need only recall how long it took the US to recover from the Great Recession (nearly a decade). The economic impact of COVID is much broader and deeper than even this. We have a long road ahead, as a country and a world.

Sometimes, faithful hope can be like standing on the deck of a ship watching as the port gets nearer. And sometimes, faithful hope is like clinging to a float in the middle of the ocean. We need to be honest about the projections we are seeing, but in times like these, we also need to cling in hope to what we are equally assured of by faith.

We don’t need to change the story; we just need to be faithful to the story we trust in by faith. The only future that has been written in stone is a future without hunger and thirst.

We give thanks for the work that many of you are doing to address this deep, deep need, through your local ministries, advocacy, generosity and through the work we do together as ELCA World Hunger. May God continue to make a blessing of your efforts.

You can download the slides for this presentation here: ELCA World Hunger Hunger and Poverty Statistics for 2020



Hope and a Second Round of Daily Bread Matching Grants


With gratitude for those who have donated to and participated in the ELCA’s COVID-19 Response Fund, ELCA World Hunger is happy to announce another round of Daily Bread Matching Grants this fall. Grant applications are being accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Learn more below.

Hope Springs Up Through Daily Bread Matching Grants

Here in Chicago, the days are growing colder, the daylight hours are growing fewer and the impending arrival of a long winter looms large. As the season changes, we are confronted with the undeniable fact that the pandemic remains with us. Economic prospects are bleak, and hunger is on the rise. Many of us are grieving, lonely or afraid; we are isolated from one another in ways that would have felt inconceivable before this year. At the same time, we face such new challenges as managing virtual school, finding safe ways to vote, and adapting ministries to new models. The change is relentless and exhausting, like the political ads on our televisions and the news predicting a second wave of the virus.

On many days we may feel as if God has left us, God’s people, wandering in the wilderness. But God’s promises of renewal and hope for the future hold true: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness” (Isaiah 43:18-19). This is not just a promise for this pandemic time but a standing promise from God for all time. Especially in times such as these, when hope feels scarce, we need to create a space where we can look a little closer and remember the hope we are called to as Christians.

More specifically, this is a time not only to recall the hope we have in Christ intellectually but to “re-member” hope — to relearn that our Christian hope and God’s promise for renewal come to us through the fellow members of our communities. The hope we share as Christians is an embodied hope that shows us where God is already active in our communities and urges us to lend a hand.

Daily Bread Matching Grants — which launched in April, early in the pandemic — utilize the ELCA’s crowdfunding platform and create giving incentives, in the form of $500 matching grants, that have allowed 200 ELCA congregations with feeding ministries to reach out directly to their communities and raise much-needed funds to meet the increased demand for food. The grants enable ELCA congregations to embody hope by providing actual daily bread to their communities.

We are currently accepting applications for a second round of Daily Bread Matching Grants, to be awarded in November. If you would like to apply for a grant or donate to the program, visit

Success Stories From Congregations

The stories that have emerged from the spring round of Daily Bread Matching Grants truly reveal what it means to re-member hope. ELCA World Hunger staff have celebrated countless stories of communities and congregations mobilizing quickly and pivoting to meet the immediate needs of community members and continue our work toward a just world where all are fed — all while keeping their communities safe. Several of those stories are featured in our “Church Together – Apart” video series, which you can explore through the links below.

In Junction City, Ohio, New Lebanon Lutheran Church re-membered hope by creating an online community. Pastor Kristin Santiago explains, “For the first time in 204 years of congregational history, this congregation now has a website, access to online giving and newer social media, which helped us spread the word about the need for matching funds given to the Daily Bread Matching Grant.” Pastor Kristin notes that the pandemic hit her community hard: “Our southeastern, Appalachian Ohio community has lived with high amounts of poverty for a generation following the closure of coal mining and loss of manufacturing jobs. The onset of the pandemic has exacerbated that with more layoffs.”

With new access to online giving, along with traditional forms of giving, New Lebanon was able to raise funds for Shepherd’s Table, the church’s semimonthly feeding ministry. As a result, New Lebanon has been able to increase from 75 to 150 the meals it serves its neighbors every month. Pastor Kristin hopes that the connections made through this grant will continue to help Shepherd’s Table expand the number of meals it serves.

Hope Lutheran Church in Lynden, Wash, re-membered hope by expanding its “backpack buddies” program, which provides food for students and families who rely on free or discounted school lunches. The program’s founder, Tammy Yoder, explained that her community is home to many farmers and migrant farmworkers who were hit hard by the pandemic due to shifting food demands across the country. Tammy and her team used their Daily Bread Matching Grant to provide patrons with ingredients for two full family meals instead of smaller individual meals.

And in Huntington Station, N.Y, Gloria Dei Evangelical Lutheran Church re-membered hope with its food pantry, which has seen demand double in recent months and is the only ministry in the church building that has continued to operate throughout the pandemic. In fact, with the help of a Daily Bread Matching Grant, the congregation has even grown its ministry by working with food banks and other partners in its community. According to Pastor Joel, the congregation had never before used its Facebook page for fundraising. “Within a day or two, we’d already reached that $500 matching goal,” he said. “By the time we were done, we were up over $4,000.”

All told, through online fundraising the 200 congregations participating in the spring’s Daily Bread Matching Grants more than tripled ELCA World Hunger’s contribution toward domestic, community-based feeding ministries. These 200 congregations remind us that, even when days feel dark, hope is not a scarce commodity but an abundant blessing to be shared widely. God is doing a new thing through the members of this church. Do you not perceive it?


Four Ways COVID-19 May Impact Hunger


Since 2015, undernourishment around the world has been on the rise, after years of decline. In the latest estimates from the United Nations, more than 820 million people are undernourished. Even as we face the clear and present threat of coronavirus, we need to remain aware of the ongoing, persistent threat of hunger around the world. The current pandemic is revealing and exacerbating long-standing disparities – in income, access to health care, and social mobility. As the disease continues to spread, and as governments take steps to avert it, what might be the consequences for hunger?

Here are some of the things to keep an eye on when it comes to hunger in a pandemic.

Food Prices

What do we know?

One of the reasons we have seen rises in hunger in the last 10-15 years is volatility in food prices. In 2007-2008, for example, prices for wheat, corn and rice reached new highs. Milk and meat also spiked. This increased vulnerability to hunger in many countries. Some countries were harder hit than others. India, for example, saw an increase in wasting (low weight for height) among children. Fourteen African countries also experienced civil unrest over high prices, as did Bangladesh and Haiti. The research suggests that the biggest impacts of the price crisis were felt particularly among low-income groups. Some analysts also argue that the food price crisis may have contributed to the Arab Spring protests that erupted in the early 2010s.

What should we be watching?

One of the main concerns about COVID-19 early on was that both the disease and the government responses to it may cause a spike in food prices. This could be the result of infections preventing people from working in agriculture or in processing, restrictions on trade, and stockpiling[1] of food, all of which can reduce supply. As supply decreases and demand increases, of course, prices rise. If this were to happen in the midst of a pandemic, when many folks are also vulnerable to infections that can keep them from working, we might see a spike in global hunger, especially for those whose income leaves them vulnerable already. At particular risk are farmworkers, particularly field workers, many of whom are at increased risk of infection because of a lack of sufficient protocols for safety. As the agricultural industry is impacted, many of these workers may face reduced pay or reduced opportunities for work, both of which can leave them vulnerable to poverty, hunger and increased infection, especially as they pursue work in unsafe settings or under-regulated industries.

What are we seeing so far?

There’s good news and bad news. We aren’t yet seeing spikes in food prices. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) tracks food prices by month, and the latest data for March 2020 didn’t show significant increases. That’s good news. Also, this year is looking to be strong for harvests of wheat and some other cereals. That’s also good news. The price spikes earlier this century were often accompanied by droughts that caused down years for crops. So far, that isn’t the case in 2020. The biggest concern for now is that restrictions on trade and mobility might create a situation friendly to higher prices.

The bad news is actually in the other direction, with prices falling. In the US, many farmers rely on restaurants and stores to purchase their produce. With the closures of these businesses and direct-to-consumer markets, farmers face a challenging environment for selling their crops. The CARES Act included an allocation of $9.5 billion to help support them through the USDA.

Farmers in other countries face similar challenges. With markets closed or closing and developed economies slowed or retreating, prices for exports and commodities are moving down. This could create long-term problems for people in agriculture. In developing countries, where the share of the labor force dependent on agriculture can reach well above 50%, this is a significant problem. See below for more on exports this year.

Health Care Costs

What do we know?

Medical out-of-pocket costs are a significant driver of poverty in the United States. According to the US Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, medical out-of-pocket costs were responsible for adding about 8 million people to the number of people living in poverty in 2018. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank estimated that in 2010, 800 million people spent 10% of their household budget on health care, and about 100 million people were pushed into extreme poverty because of health care costs. For many, the choice to seek medical treatment is a choice between paying for care and paying for other needs, such as food.

The relationship between health and hunger is kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, malnutrition can lead to significant health problems, such as hypertension, anemia, coronary heart disease, and diabetes. Based on what we know so far about COVID-19, this leaves people who are hungry at greater risk of severe symptoms from infection. As people get sick, they are more likely to miss out on income and thus less able to afford food and other necessities. When they aren’t getting enough food, they are more likely to get sick. It’s a vicious cycle.

What should we be watching?

Without access to a sufficient, stable healthy diet, people who are already vulnerable to poor health will be at heightened risk from COVID-19. Moreover, in many areas, communities with high rates of poverty and hunger also have limited access to health services, particularly the kinds of specialized services that are needed to treat severe symptoms of COVID-19.

One of the ways to measure access to health care services – and along with that, the ability of a country to mitigate a pandemic – is the number of health care professionals within an area. In developed countries, the number of medical doctors per 10,000 people can be as high as 20-40. The number of medical doctors in developing countries can be lower than one per 10,000 people. Disparities exist within other needed professions, as well, such as pharmaceutical personnel and nursing and midwifery personnel. The combination of undernourishment, low numbers of medical workers and a severe pandemic is a serious problem.

The other concern is that even if they have access, people living on the edge of extreme poverty may not be able to afford health services. It’s difficult to measure the number of people who have health coverage for essential services, but based on their research, WHO and the World Bank estimate that more than half of the world’s 7.3 billion people lack this coverage. That’s a lot of out-of-pocket expenses for many of the people who can least afford it.

For these and other reasons, ELCA Advocacy is working to ensure that the next COVID-19 funding bill in the United States includes additional funding resources in international assistance to ensure effective global responses that will protect all of us here in the United States and around the world.

What are we seeing so far?

Treatment for the kind of severe symptoms COVID-19 causes doesn’t come cheap. A 2005 study of 253 US hospitals (a bit dated, certainly) found that the average cost of mechanical ventilation for patients in intensive care was as high as $1500 per day. Without insurance, affording treatment will be out of reach for many people. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2018, more than 28 million people in the US lacked health insurance. This coverage is not evenly distributed, either. Of the wealthiest households (with incomes above $100,000 per year), less than 5% are uninsured. Of households with the lowest income (less than $25,000), more than 13% are uninsured.

Moreover, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 33 million people in the US do not have paid sick leave from work. As the Pew Research Center notes, while this has improved overall, with many workers gaining this benefit in recent years, lower-income workers are still less likely to have it. These workers are also less likely to have the financial resources to weather a major health crisis.

The long and short of it is, at this point, we don’t have a ton of verifiable data to draw conclusions about the health care impact of COVID-19 on hunger. But we do have enough information to reiterate the importance of the health projects supported by ELCA World Hunger. These projects, including hospitals and clinics, maternal and child health care, psychosocial support for mental health, vaccinations, and more, are effective ways of accompanying communities toward well-being – and building resilience to health crises. As “unprecedented” as the COVID-19 pandemic is, it is worth remembering that safety from contagious, deadly infectious diseases is not evenly shared by all. Outbreaks of Ebola, SARS, and MERS, and the ongoing pandemic of HIV/AIDS have impacted many of us and our neighbors just in the last ten years. Typically, it is the poorest households that are disproportionately impacted.

Loss of Livelihoods

What do we know?

Poverty is responsible, according to the FAO, for about half of the undernourishment around the world. Reducing poverty and achieving sufficient, sustainable livelihoods for people is critical for ending hunger. Tremendous progress has been made on this front in recent years, with poverty declining in much of the world over the last 30 years. In East Asia and the Pacific, for example, poverty has declined from about 60% in 1990 to less than 3% in 2015. Much of this decline is because of economic growth. Sadly, of course, this doesn’t mean that inequality has eased. A rising tide doesn’t necessarily lift all boats, so there is still quite a bit of poverty within countries, even as the rates overall have come down. The growth also hasn’t been even between countries. Sub-Saharan Africa has seen an increase in poverty during the overall global decrease.

What should we be watching?

The effect of sickness on income was already mentioned. But as many folks have said, the attempts to slow the virus will have their own consequences. One of the big ones will be loss of livelihoods, at least temporarily. What we are keeping an eye on here in the US is, of course, the jobs reports and the unemployment rate. Globally, we will be looking at similar things, particularly in industries like tourism, agriculture and manufacturing. In agriculture, especially, much of the work is timebound. It’s difficult to catch up on a season once it passes.

What are we seeing so far?

The numbers in the US aren’t good. The federal government has expanded unemployment coverage, and the number of applicants so far is astounding. According to the most recent (April 9) release of weekly unemployment claims by the US Department of Labor, more than 6.6 million people filed claims in the first week of April continuing the trend from the previous week and bringing the total number of people filing claims to more than 16 million. On a graph, the increase of late looks like a sharp right turn:

In the US, the March 2020 jobs report showed a loss of over 700,000 jobs. The biggest losses were in leisure and hospitality.

Internationally, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has reported some significant price decreases for commodities so far this year. As developed countries emerge from closures related to COVID-19, it will take some time for their economies to come back. At the same time, some developing countries are only at the beginning of the process of managing the pandemic. This could mean a long road back for exports and commodities. To put it simply, with weakened prices for exports and commodities, it may be a while before industries such as agriculture, processing and mining recover.

Social Safety Nets

What do we know?

Social safety net programs are government-funded programs that provide assistance to people during times of need. These can include benefits that allow people to buy food, cash assistance, subsidized medical care, and more. In the US, major safety net programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and others. These programs are critical supports in times of crisis.

SNAP is one of the more commonly used social safety nets. It provides people in need with money to purchase food during the month. The average benefit nationwide is about $130 per person per month. SNAP is one of the most effective social safety nets. The US Census Bureau estimates that, in 2018, SNAP helped keep about 3.2 million people out of poverty. During the Great Recession, increases to the program helped stabilize the Supplemental Poverty Measure calculated by the US Census Bureau. This helped keep people out of poverty.

What should we be watching?

Federal legislation in response to the pandemic has authorized increases in funding for some of the social safety net programs, like LIHEAP and WIC. For others, some of the requirements have been waived. For example, the CARES Act has waived the requirement for a woman to by physically present to apply for WIC. This will allow more people to apply while keeping themselves and their families healthy. The expansion of LIHEAP will help families maintain their utilities and use needed money for other necessities.

The big question right now is, will the social safety net do what it is intended do, namely prevent a short-term crisis from becoming a long-term situation of need for individuals and families?

The ELCA is working through ELCA Advocacy to encourage the US Congress to increase the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent during the duration of this emergency to ensure households have enough resources to avoid the hard choice of choosing between paying for their bills or for food.

What are we seeing so far?

SNAP was a big piece missing from the legislation. The Department of Agriculture, which administers SNAP, received a boost in funding, but this was not for an increase in benefits. Rather, it was to help cover the costs of what is expected to be a rise in eligible participants. So, the allocation will allow more people to participate, but it won’t necessarily provide the increased funding per person that we saw during the Great Recession. Advocating for this in future legislation is important. Again, it was SNAP increases, more than other government transfer programs, that contributed to increased jobs and reduced poverty during the recession, according to the Economic Research Service of the USDA.

Globally, the World Bank found in a 2018 study that less than 20% of people in low-income countries have access to social safety nets of any kind. Without access to public programs during crises, it is likely that COVID-19 will take a significant toll on many communities’ resilience to poverty and hunger. This will likely deepen the divide between higher-income and lower-income people within countries, as some will have the means to weather the pandemic while others may not.


The COVID-19 pandemic points to the importance of addressing hunger at the root causes. It also highlights the many ways that the burdens of crises are often not evenly shared, globally or within an individual country. The pandemic also brings into sharp relief the need for cooperation and coordination between business, nonprofits and government. Food banks and pantries have stepped up to meet immediate needs. Farmers have supported this by donating produce – at a cost to themselves. And the federal government’s legislation related to the pandemic will provide critical support.

This will be a long road, and it will require a lot of effort, particularly in advocacy with the communities most affected. To stay up-to-date on legislation and ways you can help, sign up for ELCA Advocacy action alerts at In worship and in your devotions at home, remember those who are affected now and those who may be affected in the future. And stay healthy. There are many lessons for us in this situation, but one of them is clearly just how much we need one another.





[1] Stockpiling is different from “hoarding.” Stockpiling here means countries or other large entities purchasing large amounts of commodities as a security against scarcity. This isn’t the same as a shopper buying a lot of toilet paper or canned soup.


ELCA Advocacy: COVID-19 Aid Package Passes


This post was originally published as an ELCA Advocacy Action Alert. Sign up for ELCA Advocacy e-alerts and stay up-to-date on the latest developments in federal legislation at

On March 27, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, H.R. 748 (CARES Act), a third economic aid package to help bring direct relief to families, reinforce struggling industries and the healthcare sector, and extend assistance to vital state and federal support programs.

Members of Congress and their staff worked intensely to deliver bipartisan initial response to the crisis, and we thank the many Lutherans who called their lawmakers to advocate for important faith-rooted principles and policies that support those of us at greatest risk in this pandemic. The first bill put $8.3 billion towards healthcare, including funding for global response to the pandemic. The second bill strengthened nutrition assistance programs and unemployment benefits, allowed for free coronavirus testing predicated by kits availability, and also provided extra sick leave for millions of workers.


In the third relief package, Congress passed aid to people experiencing unemployment and economic uncertainty and relief to families and businesses, including several provisions consistent with ELCA Advocacy’s priorities of faithful and timely attention to pressing concerns that affect our neighbor’s well-being and the wholeness of creation.

  • Unemployment insurance benefits expanded to people who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance and to people who do not qualify for the traditional state unemployment insurance, such as gig workers, self-employed people and contract workers;
  • Housing assistance of $7 billion offered, including targeted funding for those of us experiencing homelessness;
  • State, tribal and local government support of $150 billion for urgent needs and $150 billion for healthcare system reinforcement designated;
  • Child Care and Development Block Grants made available to states to provide immediate assistance to child care centers;
  • Evictions moratorium for 120 days enabled for renters in homes covered by a federally backed mortgage;
  • International COVID-19 response increase allotted of $1 billion, including support for repatriation of U.S. government personnel and American citizens, for displaced populations and for global disease detection.

In addition to this overview, refer to the companion ELCA Advocacy blog post for additional information about what’s coming in a fourth package as well as links to connect eligible individuals seeking assistance with sources of aid.


The initial draft of the CARES Act proposed that people too poor to pay income taxes would get smaller cash payments than people with higher incomes. Your advocacy made a difference in removing that inequity in the final version – thank you! We will also need your voice in the time ahead to advocate with populations not guaranteed automatic cash stimulus payments, such as recipients of Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. There is more to do.

As Congress will likely adjourn for several weeks, we encourage you and other advocates to watch for possible tele-conference town halls and other forums to connect with your lawmakers while they are in-district. The ELCA Advocacy resource, “August Recess Guide,” contains some tips for in-district opportunities. Express both your thanks for their action and share your specific concerns and community needs as we live aware of our role doing “God’s work. Our hands.” in this uncharted time.

If you are currently working with a hunger ministry, please also see ELCA World Hunger’s blog post “Tips for Responding to Hunger in a Pandemic.”


Tips for Responding to Hunger in a Pandemic


As communities across the United States and around the world take steps to slow the spread of COVID-19, the routine daily movements of individuals, faith communities, businesses, and more have ground to a halt – or taken new shapes few anticipated. With closed signs hanging outside many restaurants and shelves standing empty inside many stores, it’s no surprise that many people are worried about having enough to get through the current crisis. And yet, in the midst of it, we need to remember that the fear of scarcity or vulnerability did not start with the novel coronavirus; it merely widened in scope. For many of our neighbors, the vulnerability of economic uncertainty and the concern of not having enough food or supplies to last the week or month was and remains a daily reality, exacerbated by the shutdown of daily life and the new significant threats posed by the virus.

The emergency food system – pantries, community meals, soup kitchens and more – is designed to provide for neighbors in need. But it also functions in many ways contrary to the best advice we are receiving about managing the COVID-19 crisis. We are being told not to congregate in large groups; community meals are often designed to bring together a large, diverse crowd for fellowship. We are being told to practice social distancing; many pantries are set up to foster close communication and contact between participants and volunteers. We are being told to stock enough food and household necessities to last 2-4 weeks; many emergency feeding programs rely on neighbors giving freely of their resources.

Hunger is still a challenge, even as our attention is focused on the health crisis at hand, and in many ways, it may get worse. What can we do to ensure that the virus that has brought so much of daily life to a grinding halt does not do the same to our work to end hunger? Below are some tips to support neighbors facing food insecurity during these challenging times. For more suggestions, you can visit the California Association of Food Banks or the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC), both of which have pages listing suggestions for adapting hunger programs to meet the current reality.

1) Change

If you work at or run a pantry, consider alternatives to your current model. This might mean providing a drive-through service, instead of indoor pick-up. Some food pantries have moved from a client-choice model to preparing bags, so that clients are not moving through the pantry or congregating together in lines or waiting areas. Be sure to have adequate signage and other communications if you make this shift. Also, remember to consider clients who do not have cars. One way to maintain client choice may be to offer 2 or more different types of bags, with different items in them. As a volunteer greets each guest, offer them the option of which bag they would prefer. This allows them the choice, while still maintaining the social distance needed with the new distribution. With stores running low on disinfectant supplies and paper goods, consider adding these to your distribution, if you don’t already.

2) Know

Knowing your neighbors is a key part of participating in any successful feeding ministry. So, too, is knowing as much as possible about COVID-19, including who is most vulnerable, what the symptoms are and where testing might be available. We know that some neighbors will be more vulnerable to COVID-19, depending on age. Consider increasing the distribution amounts for them, so that they don’t have to leave the house as often. If your ministry has clients with other underlying conditions, try reaching out to them to make sure they are healthy. If possible, prepare separate bags for special diets, including for people with conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.

Also, help clients and volunteers learn more about COVID-19 by sharing information about the virus and about testing options. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have print resources available online at Consider posting these or including them in bags of food for guests. Your local county health department may be able to share with you information about testing sites, including restrictions. Remember, some testing sites, including drive-through testing sites, are only open to people with a physician’s order for testing. You can also visit to learn more.

The ELCA is also providing information and resources via its website at There, you can find guidelines from the CDC, important links and other useful information.

3) Reduce

Reduce the number of people gathering at the pantry at one time. If possible, consider providing appointment times for clients, to reduce the number of people gathering at the space at a single time. If you already use an appointment system, reduce the number of people allowed at each appointment and consider expanding hours or availability to help diffuse the flow of people. The California Association of Food Banks also suggests cross-training volunteers to do multiple jobs and evaluating how many volunteers or staff are essential to help reduce the number of workers at each shift.

4) Protect

It is not known how long COVID-19 can live on surfaces. As you receive donations, talk with your suppliers about the steps they have taken to reduce the spread of the virus. Be sure anyone working in your facility or handling donations is not sick and is practicing good hygiene – washing hands frequently, avoiding touching their face, and avoiding contact with others to the extent possible. As you stock up on cleaning supplies for clients, be sure that your pantry has enough soap, sanitizer, disinfectant supplies, etc. for frequent cleaning and disinfecting for volunteers and the pantry, too. When packing bags of food for clients, reduce the number of people who are touching food or other donations as much as possible, and ensure that everyone who packs bags, stocks shelves or otherwise works with donations washes their hands. If you use clipboards for intake forms, sanitize them often.

5) Cancel

DMARC has postponed or cancelled all large volunteer events and hunger education and outreach events within their network, and the same stance should be adopted for other feeding programs. Any gatherings of large groups, including for service or education, should be postponed or cancelled. Unfortunately, this includes community meals, whenever possible.

6) Donate (But Ask First!)

Now is a critical time to accompany local feeding programs and ministries. As more folks hoard supplies and food, ensuring that our neighbors have enough is more important than ever. If you are able to support a local pantry or feeding ministry, please do so. But before you drop off a large donation, call them first! Managing donations takes a lot of volunteer time, which many ministries and programs may not have right now. Others may have specific needs, depending on their community. Try to reach out first, before choosing how to provide the best support.

7) Give

These are going to be trying times for anti-hunger work for a very long time. If you have the means, prayerfully consider supporting local hunger ministries by donating online, if the option is available. You can also continue to support the work of domestic and international ministries through ELCA World Hunger by visiting With churches closed and offering plates not being passed, it can be easy to forget how much our local, national and international ministries depend on the regular support received from gifts.

8) Support

Hunger is never just about food. Hunger is often a symptom of deeper vulnerabilities. Some of these economic vulnerabilities are being disclosed in rapid and jarring fashion now. The immediate impact of the widespread shutdown is being felt by service and hospitality industry workers in restaurants, bars, coffeeshops, hotels, etc., especially. Many workers in these industries work for hourly wages without paid sick leave. Servers and others depend primarily on tips, which won’t come when the business is closed. The long-term impact of the pandemic on the service industry and small businesses may be significant. Even as we follow the advice to stay home, consider purchasing a gift card from a local business, like a restaurant, coffeeshop or retail store, to use after the current crisis ends. These businesses provide the jobs that are needed to help people feed themselves and their families in the long-term. Many restaurants are also offering take-out options. If you are healthy and can do carry-out or curbside service, remember to tip the workers well. If possible, try to make the tip for carry-out at the same level as the tip you might leave for a sit-down meal.

9) Advocate

ELCA Advocacy has been actively providing alerts about legislation related to COVID-19. You can read the recent ELCA Advocacy blog here. Right now, legislators are preparing to vote on H.R. 6201 – the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This major legislation will be a major step in providing support to people in need across the country, both in the immediate and in the long-term. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to get in touch with your members of Congress. H.R. 6201 takes major steps in ensuring that our neighbors in need will have access to nutritious food during the crisis by:

  • Increasing funding for TEFAP, the federal program that allows pantries and food banks to purchase food at low prices;
  • Expanding funding for low-income pregnant women and mothers whose jobs are impacted by COVID-19; and
  • Providing additional meals for elderly Americans who rely on the Senior Nutrition

In addition, the Act would prevent changes to the SNAP program that are slated to go into effect on April 1. These changes would remove the ability of states to make exceptions to the work requirements of SNAP during economic downturns, like the kind we are seeing now. This would mean that some SNAP recipients who work in businesses currently closed due to COVID-19 would be at risk of losing their benefits. H.R. 6201 as it is currently worded would prevent this from happening.

Stay up-to-date on the latest legislative information related to COVID-19 by following ELCA Advocacy on Facebook and by signing up for ELCA Advocacy e-Alerts here.

10) Witness

The church is and always has been caught in the tension of the already-but-not-yet Reign of God. We know by faith that God, even now, is moving the world toward wholeness and healing that surpasses even our deepest hopes during a pandemic. The church is called to bear witness to that hope to one another and to our neighbors. To be church means to be a sign of the bright future God has in store for all creation. But to be church also means to take seriously the threats to our health and wholeness now. As Lutherans, we affirm that both the complete healing to come and the healing we can experience now are gifts from God. The wisdom of public health officials, the empathy of neighbors sacrificing together to stem the spread of disease, and the tireless efforts of community leaders are gifts from God.

Maintaining social distancing, practicing good hygiene, and even changing the way we worship together may seem like mere practical steps. But they reflect some of our core beliefs as people of faith: that human wisdom is a gift of God to give effective shape to our love for one another; that protecting our most vulnerable neighbors is part of our vocation as the people of God; and that authentic worship can take many forms. Our faith also calls us to accompany our neighbors facing heightened anxiety because of both health- and economic-related uncertainties. To witness to hope means to be part of practical solutions, to show empathy and to respect the dignity of all our neighbors, especially in challenging times. It is to remember that even as we maintain social distance, we do so out of love and concern and not out of fear.

To be the witness God calls the church to be means being both wise and “foolish” at the same time – wise, in that our actions are driven by the best information we have available, and “foolish,” in that we bear witness to hope, even in the midst of crisis. At work in this tension is where we are called to be and who we are called to be, during a pandemic – and long after.

To learn more about the church’s “caring response in times of public health concerns,” visit the ELCA’s website at There are links on that page to resources for your congregation to pray for healing and health during this time.