Conference commits $100,000 to Grocery Gift Cards for Families


After a successful pilot program of approximately 300 grocery gift cards being distributed to low-income families in and around Portland, the Oregon-Idaho Conference Ministry Leadership Team is excited to offer a $100,000 grant to help churches get grocery gift cards into the hands of families across Oregon and Idaho.

The launch of “Grocery Gift Cards for Families” is meant to inspire churches to identify and engage with people in their community to reach those most in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

Without access to food banks and news that the Oregon Food Bank is being stretched beyond capacity to meet demand of local sites, this grocery gift card program is more crucial than ever to individual families’ ability to survive. We know for many low-income individuals and families, meeting basic needs such as food, water and shelter was already a challenge, with limited access to community resources. Adding a pandemic on top of this has only made the situation move from bad to worse. It’s our moral obligation as followers of Jesus to help.

Our United Methodist Churches are pleading with our fellow siblings in Christ, our many generous business partners in communities across Oregon and Idaho and individuals to join us in this challenge of getting Grocery Gift Cards for Families into the hands of as many people as we can as quickly as we can.”

Church lay leaders and pastors are being asked to engage with their local communities to provide gift cards to those most in need. During the pilot program, some of that was done via work with local schools. But in some communities it might mean reaching out to organizations who assist migrant families or senior citizens living in isolation.

Some churches across the Conference have already gotten involved, with extension societies in Cascadia, Columbia and Crater Lake districts contributing $20,000 or more in grant funds that matched fundraising from local churches. In total, over $140,000 in gift cards has already been distributed to struggling families. The hope is to significantly expand that work with this latest MLT grant.

All churches are encouraged to reach out in partnership to those in their community who are most vulnerable during this COVID-19 time. If a church chooses to engage in this project and wants to apply for matching funds from the Ministry Leadership Team they must work with their District Superintendent.

Sage District Superintendent Karen Hernandez said there is excitement her churches in eastern Oregon and southern Idaho about this project. A lot of the pastors in the Sage District are already well-connected with their communities and know there is a gap in resources right now.

“Our local pastors know the needs in their communities and know what to do when challenges arise, especially in rural communities,” Hernandez said.

Giving grocery store gift cards to organizations to distribute to those most at need is an effective way to be engaged in Jesus’ loving ministry while also committing to deep acts of justice and mercy for those who have been living on the margins long before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Any time you can do something that keeps a person’s dignity intact, that should be the first choice,” said Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber, Greater Northwest Area Director of Innovation for an Engaged Church.

When possible, donations should be made directly to local churches engaged in this initiative. Donations can also be made online through the Conference website and funds will be dispersed evenly across Crater Lake, Columbia, Cascadia and Sage districts.

For more information on the project, to read success stories from the pilot program or make a donation visit www.umoi.org/grocerygiftcards.