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Big and Small Nashville Churches Feed the Hungry in Tennessee

A new study revealed that churches in Nashville tend to feed hungry families in several zip codes across the state.

Tracy Noerper, a nutrition professor at Lipscomb University, conducted a study on urban food pantries and found out that medium-sized churches in Nashville serve families in seven or eight zip codes and even small churches with less than 100 members are able to reach families in three zip codes, reports Christian Headlines.

If people get a good bag of groceries, they might tell other people in need, in their families, or people in their apartment complex. And through these networks, all of the city is being served. —Tracy Noerper, Author of P13 Social Network Analysis of Urban Church Food Pantries

Interestingly, large churches, or those with 300 or more members, serve an average of six zip codes, a slightly smaller area compared to the number of families reached by small churches. While the reason for this is unclear, the study’s author suggested that large churches are located in suburban areas where they are less accessible, or it is also possible that they prioritize several ministries other than their food pantries.

The study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior remarked on two churches that feed people to at least 20 and 30 zip codes.

Noerper explained that food pantries of churches are able to assist many families through word of mouth. “If people get a good bag of groceries, they might tell other people in need, in their families, or people in their apartment complex. And through these networks, all of the city is being served,” the author said.

The study, titled “P13 Social Network Analysis of Urban Church Food Pantries,” is a culmination of a three-year research from 2015 to 2018 of 93 churches in Tennessee. The findings concluded that the success of a food pantry relies not on the size of the church, but on the quality of food and service given to people.

Charitable giving increased

The pandemic caused an increase in hunger and poverty rates around the world. While more than 20 million Americans relied on unemployment benefits, surprisingly, many Americans were still able to donate to charity. Food banks observed an increase in monetary and in-kind donations when the crisis hit, reports Reuters.

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, small- and mid-sized charity groups saw an increase of 7.6% in donations from January to September 2020, while the number of donors spiked by 11.7%. Data also showed that charities received up to $2.47 billion in donations on December 1, known as GivingTuesday, a 25% rise from 2019.

“People are giving like we’ve never seen before,” said Woodrow Rosenbaum, chief data officer for GivingTuesday.

Despite the hardships and heartaches brought by the pandemic, it made Americans mindful of the less fortunate and grateful for all the blessings they have.


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