Connecting parishes with developing countries

By Barb Arland-Fye

Some rural and urban parishes in the Davenport Diocese are participating in a food program that curbs hunger overseas by providing impoverished people with resources to sustain themselves.

But Foods Resource Bank (FRB) does even more. It helps connect rural and urban parishes in their efforts to provide sustainable food security in the developing world, says Brian Backe, who serves on the FRB board as the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) representative.

He was in the Quad-Cities last week to attend FRB’s annual meeting and 10-year anniversary gathering at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. Also attending were John Taylor, program/advocacy officer for CRS-Midwest and participants in FRB projects from the diocese and around the world.

Here’s how the program works: U.S. farmers collaborate with non-farmers to grow, harvest and sell crops and donate the proceeds to an FRB project of their choosing. CRS and 14 other denominations represented on the FRB board propose programs for funding and oversee them with partners in the developing countries. Projects involve soil conservation, rehabilitating wells and establishment of community grain banks, for example.

For farmer Bob Braden, a member of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, participation in Foods Resource Bank has been most rewarding. “I know my money is going toward what I want it to go toward. I work with a lot of people like myself (on the project) and we enjoy working together to make a difference.”

Hearts to Harvest is the name of the project on which Braden works with other members of St. Ann Parish and Faith Lutheran Church in Eldridge. The ecumenical aspect is another benefit in Braden’s mind.

They grow 20 acres each of corn and soybeans; seed and fertilizer companies contribute to the project by donating “inputs” such as seed and fertilizer.

Sarah Van de Walle of Dixon, also a member of St. Ann’s, got involved in the Hearts to Harvest effort through her dad, a member of Faith Lutheran. She serves as the committee’s secretary. Her shock at learning that Ethiopians were starving in part because they didn’t have grain bins in which to store grain left a big impression.

“That’s what FRB does; it looks at the causes and gives (people in developing countries) the means to do what needs to be done.” In the case of the Ethiopians, it’s training them to build grain bins with readily available materials.

For farmer Dean Friederichs of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, a benefit of participating in Foods Resource Bank is the rural-urban linkage. Planting Seeds, Growing Dignity is the name of the project he and other members of his large, urban parish are involved in. They’ve planted about eight acres of corn this year.

“One of the things that appeals to a lot of people is that we’re not just feeding people, we’re actually bringing about change.”

Friederichs first became interested in FRB after reading an article last year in The Catholic Messenger in which his friend, Bob Braden, was interviewed. Friederichs approached his parish council about starting an FRB project last year. More people are involved this year and Friederichs, who now serves as parish council president, hopes to generate even more interest next year.

Gabriela and Louis Egging of Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton are engaged in an FRB project with several members of their parish and members of Zion Lutheran Church in Elvira and First United Methodist Church in Clinton. Their project is called Seeds of Love and Hope.

FRB “is faith-filled people motivated to help the world’s hungry,” she said. She gave a short talk during FRB’s annual gathering. She spoke of her dream to see a sustainable food project developed in southern Sudan where one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, whom she personally met, is striving to establish orphanages. It would build on the “heart” connection that she and others have established with that young man during his visit to Clinton this year.

Foods Resource Bank is an excellent way to bring about global solidarity, Backe said.

“That’s what our faith is about, building relationships around food and hospitality, where people come together sharing what they produce,” Taylor said.

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