By Cindy Adams


It's in a small room, in a small church, in a small town, where a small group of people make big things happen. Packing bags with soup and mac and cheese may not seem life-altering, but it is. Ask a student facing a weekend with no guarantee of food.  

It is not uncommon. Approximately 90 percent of Wytheville Minnick's students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch, which means their families are below the national poverty level. This stark reality moved the congregation at Holy Trinity into action and what was born in the spring of 2015 has become known as Luther's Lunch Bags, a mission to address food insecurity for local students. 

Janice Shriver, one of the founding members, explained that the congregation learned from their pastor that there were students loading up on food at school on Friday because they knew they would not have enough to eat over the weekend. On Monday, they showed up at school hungry.  

Janice said their humble question was, "What can we do?" 

From there, Janice and others began visiting groups who had organized backpack programs, talking to dieticians, developing rotating menus and speaking with representatives from enCircle. At that time, 15 Wytheville Minnick School students became the beneficiaries of a small program formed out of great compassion.  

"We knew we had to do something, and we felt this was something we could manage and sustain. Our congregation fully supported it," said Lisa Alderman, one of ten serving on the Luther's Lunch Bags committee today. 

So, they got to work, stuffing lunch bags and delivering food to students on Fridays so they would have food over the weekends. But they didn’t stop there.  

In a way, Luther's Lunch Bags group has adopted Wytheville Minnick students and the staff. They’ve done landscaping, cleaning, painting, and power washing around their building. They've brought treats for the staff to encourage them, volunteered to read to students, and are quick to attend school events. The students are used to having them as part of their school experience. And it's a reciprocal relationship. Wytheville Minnick students have also gone to the church and helped pack the food.  

Today, the program serves around 50 students during the school year and around 10 during summer school. It costs about $210 per student, per academic year. A price church members are happy to pay. They periodically survey the students to see what kind of food they like, or dislike, and tweak their menus. They care. They invest time in shopping, packing and delivering. Everyone has a role to play. 

"It’s a thing of beauty," said Lisa. " We can’t help the whole world, but we can help our world." 

For one Wytheville Minnick student, receiving a Luther's Lunch Bag means he and his younger sibling will have food on Saturday and Sunday. The need is evident. During the school day, this student hurriedly eats everything available, and the staff often send him home with the day's leftovers. On Friday, they try to give him a double helping of Luther's Lunch Bags so he and his sibling can stretch the food over two days.  

So, those bags of food, packed in a small room, in a small church, in a small town, by a small group of people − they are no small thing.