You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Soup Kitchen spurns USDA food to retain prayer

USDA food provided 43 percent of 2012 aid total here.


The operator of the Springfield Soup Kitchen said he will sign up to be a Second Harvest Food Bank affiliate after being assured the food he receives will not restrict the timing of prayer at the kitchen’s twice-a-week meals.

“I have to have meat, that’s my priority for these homeless people,” said Fred Stegner, whose Springfield Soup Kitchen serves free meals at 5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at 830 W. Main St.

Stegner had hesitated to apply for food from Second Harvest because of restrictions on prayer that accompany use of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food that is part of the food bank’s supply.

Stegner was assured he could use food from non USDA sources.

“We’ve got to try to get food,” Stegner said. “But we will not give up our freedom.”

Keith Williamson, who manages the food bank, said that, to his knowledge, none of the soup kitchens operated by Second Harvest’s affiliates use USDA food, which typically arrives in smaller serving sizes than are practical for soup kitchen use.

He also said that 22 of the 72 agencies that work with the local food bank are non-USDA users that, when ordering their food, simply avoid the USDA items identified on the menu.

Stegner said he is going to exercise that option.

Williamson said USDA food plays a crucial part in the food bank’s ability to feed the growing number of hungry people.

The 1.9 million pounds of food the USDA provided last year represents about 43 percent of the food Second Harvest gave out last year, he said. That includes the food distributed in 40-pound boxes delivered monthly to about 1,200 lower-income senior citizens.

Because the USDA food is from a public source, federal civil rights law says those serving the food “cannot require or coerce clients to attend a religious service, participate in prayer, join a counseling group, attend budgeting, parenting or job training classes or do odd jobs.”

At a May 23 meeting at Second Harvest, 701 E. Columbia St., Stegner asked why a Catholic organization would accept food from the USDA if it came with restrictions on prayer, contending, “It’s in direct opposition to your (religious) mission.”

Ted Bergh, CEO of Cincinnati-based Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio, which operates Second Harvest, said there is no conflict between Catholic thinking on serving the poor and the USDA regulations.

“Catholics don’t proselytize. They don’t make people pray to eat,” Bergh said.

Knowing the hungry include many denominations and atheists, “We don’t beat people over the head with the Bible to eat,” he said. “That’s wrong.”

Springfielder Colleen Walters, president of Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio, agreed: “We do it because we’re Catholic, not to make them Catholic. I don’t think you should make people who are vulnerable pray.”

If that message was clear, those representing the local Catholic community were divided on whether USDA regulations restrict prayer from being offered until food is served or after the meal is finished.

While some said grace could be said before the meal, Bergh called it a “gray area” and Williamson said his firm belief that any offering of prayer before meal’s end might make any agency that uses USDA commodities vulnerable to a complaint before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

Stegner said he would avoid USDA regulations at the Springfield Soup Kitchen because “there are many that ask for prayer” and “many participating ministers oblige at the table side.”

But after the meeting he also said, “We’re looking forward to being on board with Second Harvest.”

The Springfield Soup Kitchen officially will become an affiliate when it makes minor improvements to meet the food handling standards of ServSafe.

In related news, Second Harvest also has learned that it will get nearly $77,000 as its share of $1 million Gov. John Kasich released by executive order last week to 13 food banks around Ohio.

In addition to buying food, said Williamson, “we can actually buy some personal care items, too.”

That includes toothpaste, soap and other hygiene items food bank clients usually need.

The timing of the release, Williamson said, will allow Second Harvest to “get an abundance for the summer, which is going to be great.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Community News

Georgia storms kill 11, injure 23 as threat continues
Georgia storms kill 11, injure 23 as threat continues

Eleven people are dead and 23 are injured after strong storms moved through Georgia Saturday night, into Sunday morning.  State emergency management officials confirm seven of the deaths are in Cook County. Officials with the Brooks County Sheriff's Office confirmed two deaths to Channel 2 Action News. Both people were in the same home in...
Ohio Brownie uses special effects video to help promote Girl Scout cookie season
Ohio Brownie uses special effects video to help promote Girl Scout cookie season

An Ohio Brownie made a video to promote Girl Scouts cookie selling season.  But Yula Douglas of Beavercreek didn't want to make just any video. She wanted the full suite of green screen effects, multiple settings, and even animal actors (it includes pet rats).  Yula scripted and directed the video with a little help from her parents...
Organizers cancel Springfield curling tournament
Organizers cancel Springfield curling tournament

A curling tournament that brought visitors from across the United States and Canada to Springfield has been cancelled. The Champion City Bonspiel, which was held last May at the NTPRD Chiller ice rink, 301 W. Main St. near Curl Troy curling club, won’t be held this year, according to a release on the organization’s website. The decision...
Trump softening tone after slamming celebs, media over Women’s March
Trump softening tone after slamming celebs, media over Women’s March

Then just an hour-and-a-half later, Trump sent another tweet clearly softening his tone toward the protesters. He tweeted "Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don't always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views." Trump's tweets came after the White House slammed the media and pop star Madonna...
Rain chances going up as temperatures go down this week
Rain chances going up as temperatures go down this week

Rain chances higher today and even higher Monday Temperatures slowly falling this week Chance for snow returns by the end of the week TODAY: Mostly cloudy with highs in the middle to upper 50s. Chance of rain for the southeast Dayton metro area this evening. TONIGHT: Showers possible. Temperatures falling into the middle 40s. MONDAY: ...
More Stories