October 01, 2023

‘Build a longer table’

Creston’s newest food shelf

In January, Salem Lutheran Church’s Pastor Evan McVann spoke with the Union County Food Coalition about installing a food shelf outside of his church. Since then, Salem Lutheran has worked hard to accomplish this goal, the food shelf officially opened Thursday.

“There wasn’t a public to-go pantry that was available [near the high school],” McVann said. “This was an idea that was brought up last year. We didn’t pursue it at that time, but when the need was identified, we thought we might as well re-bring up the conversation.”

McVann spoke with his church’s outreach and property committees and they readily agreed to the project. However, McVann had one stipulation.

“I told them that if they do this, they have to come up with a good name for it,” he said. “It can’t just be a simple name, it’s got to be cool.”

Thus, The Long Table was born. Salem Lutheran parishioner Sherri Nissen explained the meaning.

“Sandy [Sickels] came up with the name based on a song,” Nissen said. “When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.”

This sentiment is written on the shelf, along with the phrase “Take what you need, leave what you can.” McVann said this came from a biblical idea.

“It’s reminiscent of the biblical concept called ‘gleaning,’” McVann said. “In ancient Israel, people who were in need of food and couldn’t buy any were allowed to go into the farm fields and pick up crop that was dropped to have for themselves. There’s that sense of leaving behind what you can for those in need.”

When putting together the food shelf, Salem Lutheran took advice from First United Methodist Church, which has a food shelf of their own. Money was donated from Salem Lutheran’s Memorial Committee fund and construction was done by parishioners.

The community was already hard at work in keeping the food shelf stocked before it was officially open. When Salem Lutheran parishioners went to fill the shelf, it was already half full.

“It’s really encouraging that people started to put things inside without our knowledge,” McVann said. “It seems to be a really good start. There’s even infant food in there right now.”

Nissen explained while different church groups have signed up to fill the shelf throughout the month, community donations are still welcome.

“Anybody in the community that wants to stock it, they can come in and take what they need and leave what they can,” Nissen said.

When thinking of items to donate, McVann shared food is not the only need.

“Food that can sit out here is one big thing,” McVann said. “Some of the greater need is not just food, but also other daily product needs. Hygiene, toiletries and such.”

Salem Lutheran Church is located at 602 W. Townline St. in Creston. The food shelf is located on the side of the building, accessed via North Sycamore Street.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.