For nearly a year some of the greatest displays of love have manifested at 1380 S Sanderson Ave in Anaheim, California. Every other Saturday, thousands of families have been served at the food pantry run by the Church of Southland. During the pandemic, Pastor Joe Suh, an assistant pastor at Southland, saw the needs of the community and sought to alleviate them. After a nearby food pantry shut down, thousands of families with food insecurities faced further hardships. It was at this time of great necessity that the Church of Southland’s food pantry was born.
Since the pandemic, millions upon millions of Americans have found themselves worrying about sparse pantries. In March to October 2020 alone, more than 6 billion meals were distributed at food banks, with a 60 percent average increase in food bank users. So it’s no surprise to hear that Southland’s pantry was a massive success. With various factors, such as unemployment taking a toll on personal finances, countless families have sought and received aid from this food pantry. Over the past year, more than 4,300 families have been served by 1,700 volunteers from the Church of Southland.
Logistically, there’s been a lot to handle. Pastor Joe described the food procurement process as “originally a little like guerilla warfare.” Searching for viable food sources and coordinating meal boxes initially took much patience and effort. Even though establishing a rhythm proved to be tough, through reaching out to various organizations, the church has made valuable connections. With the help of non-profit organizations like Mary’s Kitchen and Bracken’s, along with multiple food drives, food procurement is no longer an issue.
While the importance of caring for physical needs of the community should not be undermined, the greater goal of Southland’s food pantry has been to pray, minister, and share the gospel. Amazingly, some families have returned to the pantry not just for food, but to share how their lives have changed after coming and receiving prayer from staff and volunteers. To those at the Church of Southland, this signifies the true meaning behind the food pantry.
At present, the numbers of attendees have slowly decreased, a positive sign indicating that families are regaining stability. The world may never know perfectly “normal” lives again, nevertheless, the community has steadily regained their feet. And though fewer come, hundreds of families still show up to receive food and prayer from staff and volunteers. Pastor Joe believes that as long as there is some sort of need, there will be no plans to close the pantry. When the community needed help, this pantry stepped in and made a difference, for the good of all. Seeking to address not only physical, but spiritual needs, Southland’s doors will remain open to those across Orange County.
Mary Kim, Grade 10,
Troy High School