Grace United Methodist is a nonprofit church that runs many nonprofit extensions. Many environmental factors affect the church and its organizations on a daily basis. From social matters to laws and the economy, Grace United Methodist must stay aware and responsive to the changing environment. After taking an environmental scan over the church, a group of four Southwestern College students have investigated some of the environmental factors that have an impact on the church.
The economic aspect of an organization’s environment particularly revolves around the current economic recession. The U.S. economy is experiencing one of the slowest economic periods in recent history. Many businesses are worried that they will have to continue to cut back their employees’ wages. This in turn affects many people in terms of making a living for their family. When you think of the Great Depression, what comes to mind? For many, images of long bread lines stretching down city streets are etched in their memory. Fast forward 70 years and the reality is not much different. Every week, thousands of people across the country stand in similar lines at food banks, churches, and community centers waiting for their rations of bread, milk, and vegetables to get them through the week.
According to Laura Arrillaga- Andreessen (2012), the firefighting approach, in which you give to immediate needs, helps alleviate suffering but not necessarily get at its root causes. We often call the organizations doing this charity, as they work to ease the pain of a problem such as hunger, rather than finding ways to solve the hunger problem. Grace United Methodists Food Pantries intention is very simple—to provide to people who can’t afford it and who needs a basic supply of groceries. This type of charity often receives small donations and relies on volunteers to help keep it running.
Since the economy isn’t the best at the moment, Grace United Methodist Food Pantry has discovered that they are having some of the same issue that many others across the country are having. “Food banks across the country are seeing an increase in demand and a decrease in donations,” says Monica Y. Escobar, MSHS, RD, LD, nutrition education manager at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas in Austin. The Washington Post claims that hungry people have been laid off from jobs in industries hit hard by the economic downturn and the September 11, 2001 attacks. Since 2001 many jobs don’t pay enough to cover rent, food and utilities. During the economic boom, area housing costs skyrocketed out of reach of many low-paid workers. Each year that passes this continues to be a rising problem (Otto, M, 2002).
Having an increase in demand and decrease in donations creates a huge problem for the food pantry in Winfield. From January 2013 to-date, they have had 5,550 people come in for help to support of their family (N. Tredway, personal communication, September 23, 2013). Nancy Tredway, director of the food pantry, stated that this number has increased and she believes that it will continue increase throughout the rest of the year. “Reach Out Lakota, a nonprofit, community-sponsored organization that provides families in West Chester and Liberty townships with food, clothing and other items has seen an increase of between 15 percent and 20 percent in requests compared to years past, according to its executive director, Lourdes Ward” (“Food pantry struggles” 2010). So why is this happening? What are others doing to solve this issue at hand?
“It’s the economy,” sighed Judi Kuntz as she packed holiday grocery bags at Elizabeth house, a food pantry and soup kitchen in Laurel that serves residents in Prince George’s, Howard and Anne Arundel countries (Otto, 2002). Rising gas and food prices have impacted donations at the food pantry. The impact of high food prices on lower-income households is alarming. When faced with limited resources to pay for housing, utilities and