Food Waste to Food Security: Sharing Meals and Christ’s Love in Vancouver

JUNE 13, 2024 - AMY HECKMAN

In Vancouver, Washington, four tiny house villages—called Safe Stay communities—provide a safe place for people experiencing homelessness to find shelter and transitional housing. When Pastor Kevin Campbell-White and his wife Jeni drove by one of these villages several months ago, they had the passing thought that it would be great if their church, Hillcrest Church of the Nazarene, could partner with the city to support Safe Stay residents.

 

tiny home village

Just a few days later, the church received a call from a local Chipotle restaurant about to open in their neighborhood. The caller explained that the store was training staff and leaving hundreds of pounds of fresh salads, tacos, burritos, and more that they couldn’t sell. Unless the managers could find a partner to distribute the food where it could be used, it was destined for the dumpster.

Pastor Kevin was certain this wasn’t a coincidence, and he knew exactly where the meals should go—the tiny house communities.

The church agreed to help and held training sessions for its members to learn how to care sensitively for people in the shelters before deliveries were made. Over the course of five days, the church distributed more than 1500 pounds of fresh Chipotle meals to vulnerable people in Vancouver and nearby Portland, Oregon. Often, volunteers spent time with recipients and prayed with those who wanted that kind of spiritual care.

Church volunteers picking up meals at Chipotle

“It was kind of exciting as we got to be the hands and feet of Jesus and distribute all of this food,” shared Pastor Kevin. “We [then] continued the relationship with Chipotle for over a month as they dialed in their processes.”

chipotle meals

Then, this May, another Chipotle opened in downtown Vancouver, and Hillcrest Church, along with another group, was invited to partner with the restaurant to distribute the training meals. Meals were sent to various ministries in the city, a women and children’s shelter, and food banks. The church is preparing to do the same thing for two more restaurants opening in Portland, Oregon, this July. Joining the Hillcrest team will be members from Portland Central Church of the Nazarene, a congregation that already offers a homeless shelter and recovery program on their campus.

chipotle meals

Through all of the joy of this newfound compassionate ministry, the church members are focused on sharing the good news of God’s love with each meal they hand out.

“Our goal is to do things where we get to tell the story of what God’s doing rather than what we’re doing,” explained Pastor Kevin.

Currently, Hillcrest Church leaders are exploring the idea of starting a related non-profit organization to create long-term sustainable relationships with grocery stores and restaurants willing to donate food regularly.

“God has put this together in such a way where all we have to do is show up, and we get to be a blessing,” said Pastor Kevin. “As God opens doors, we continue to walk through them, and we’ll see where it takes us. We get to be the participants in a really cool story.”