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Miller feeds children and families

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

Part0 5

Feeding South Dakota food give away at Miller UMC. Photos courtesy of Teresa Whetsal.

Rev. Teresa Whetsel serves at the United Methodist Church in Miller, South Dakota. “When I moved here, someone asked me my name. I introduced myself as the pastor at the United Methodist Church. Someone who happened to be walking by said, ‘I know that church. They are the church that feeds people.’ I thought that is awesome!”  

The United Methodist Church in Miller, South Dakota, has been partnering with Feeding South Dakota for several years. Rev. Mark and Lisa Johnsen developed the partnership to distribute boxes of food from the Feeding South Dakota's mobile food pantry at the church. The food distribution happens every 6-8 weeks.

People coming to the food giveaway check-in by giving their name and the number in their household. There are also commodities available. People need to state their level of income to receive food commodity items.  

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the food distribution happened in the church fellowship hall. Now it is happening in the parking lot.

“We are now using ipads from Feeding South Dakota to check in people. It will be helpful to build a database with Feeding South Dakota,” says Rev. Whetsel. “It is a lot of food. There were three boxes of food and a case of jello cups in the recent food giveaway. One box of frozen food box there was 2-3 lbs. of steak, 1lb. of chicken, 1 lb. of bacon, and frozen pizza."

There are 6-8 people that help at each food distribution. “We have a couple of people checking in people. About four people are putting boxes in the cars. We have one person handing out information for the next food giveaway,” says Whetsel. “Feeding South Dakota is a great partners. We already have the next two-three dates that the mobile food pantry will be with us.

There are about 90-100 families that receive food at each giveaway. Miller UMC also distributes senior boxes through Feeding South Dakota, an income-based food program for people who qualify by age. The boxes are dropped off at the church once a month and delivered to the homes of 16 recipients.

Another way Miller UMC partners with Feeding South Dakota is through the backpack program called Table-to-Go.  Volunteers come to the church on Wednesdays, and then they are taken over to the school. Table-to-Go serves 18 students in grades Kindergarten through eigth grade.

“When school was canceled in March of 2020, we worked with the school to get lunches to kids. When packets for learning went home, bags of food were also sent home to 45 families,” shares Whetsel. “It was a bridge to help feed the kids until the school could get a sack lunch program place.”

Miller is a rural area, so sometimes there are transportation issues or some logistical issues. Pastor Teresa shares, “We are a small rural community. We tend to know everybody. When we know someone is having car trouble or cannot make it to get the food, we will hold it at the church until they can get there.”

Feeding South Dakota is one of the three recipients of the 2021 Miracle Offering: Feeding the Dakotas. Our goal is to raise $75,000 to distribute to Feeding South Dakota, Great Plains Food Bank of North Dakota, and local hunger ministries.  Feeding South Dakota will match the Dakota Conference gift up to $25,000 through membership donations. Access resources for the 2021 Miracle Offering here.


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