It was called a “Food Security Hut,” but it could have been a ministry of food and faith on Sunday when the first-ever All Yolo County Multi-Faith Thanksgiving Service was held at the Yolo Food Bank.
Attended by more than 160 people — who gathered in a cavernous warehouse — surrounded by pallets of canned food and fresh vegetables, the Sunday service brought together nearly 20 congregations from Woodland and Davis.
In addition to the service, tours were also led of the facility, which opened only a couple of months ago after more than a year of planning and construction.
The new 42,000-square-foot facility was visited by around 650 people a day earlier, during the Food Bank’s annual Holiday Food Distribution of Thanksgiving Meal Kits that contained produce and a turkey, capable of feeding a single individual or an entire family.
In all, the Food Bank delivered 2,300 Meal Kits to people across Yolo County.
On the tour, donor relations specialist Jodi Liederman showed people the warehouse where food is stored, the loading docks where it is brought in and goes out, and the “shopping area” used by other nonprofits to retrieve food supplies that is designed along the same lines as a grocery store.
But while the tours and information was important, it was the Thanksgiving service that drew the most attention, filling the warehouse with songs of praise and Thanksgiving for the things people have that others do not.
“If you would have been here this past week you would have seen hundreds of volunteers and staff preparing Thanksgiving Meal Kits to be distributed countywide to working families and their children, senior citizens, veterans, the homeless, people who are ill and migrants,” said Joy Cohan, director of philanthropic engagement. “(And) doing that with a log of love and care and compassion. … I really think about what happens here every day. We’re approaching six million pounds of food a year, moving in and out of the facility to help other people and that holy work to me and makes this a holly space for our time together today.”
She said there are “great commonalities in life and that food is certainly one of them. Food that we turn to for sustenance. We all need it. It’s also how we come together to celebrate joys and successes and how we mourn losses together.
“We turn to food for consolation in times of defeat as well,” Cohan continued. “Similarly gratitude is one of those commonalities. So, I hope that you gain as much meaning today as I will from sharing in this holy space of the Yolo Food Bank and celebrating out commonalities.”
The service itself was started by Larry Love, chairman of the Woodland Ecumenical & Multi-Faith Ministries, but others also took a stage surrounded by food and backed by words of peace and greeting written in different languages.
Organizing congregations include WEMM members Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Woodland Muslim Mosque, Greater Second Baptist Church, American Lutheran Church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Woodland United Methodist Church, Woodland Presbyterian Church, Sikhs Serving Yolo County, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), St. John’s United Church of Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Davis organizations Congregation Bet Haverim (Jewish Fellowship of Davis), Episcopal Church of St. Martin, Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, Davis Community Church, Davis United Methodist Church, and Lutheran Church of the Incarnation.
Some of the ministers, such as Rev. Kevin Buchanan of the Woodland Presbyterian Church led prayers of invocation while others such as Father Jonathan Molina of Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Khalid Saeed of the Woodland Muslim Mosque Rabbi Greg Wolfe of Congregation Bet Haverim along with tom Stallard of the Church of Christ Scientist, offered reflections on Thanksgiving.
Still others, such as Woodland Mayor Xochitl Rodriguez, provided reflection in the form of a Thanksgiving Proclamation delivered in the 1800s by then-President Abraham Lincoln.
The service also comes at a time when there is increasing food insecurity across Yolo County and the nation as a whole, driven by homelessness and the loss of jobs. According to Food Bank officials, one in five Yolo County residents cannot afford Thanksgiving dinner.
“The concept of Thanksgiving is common not only to all faiths but to all people,” commented Love in advance of the service. “Food is another common experience for all people, and the holiday of Thanksgiving brings added focus to the role of food, especially sufficient food, in our lives. This makes Yolo Food Bank a particularly unique location for this first-ever joining of congregations from Woodland and Davis to recognize this special season together.”
In all, the service lasted just over an hour, after which there were more tours of the facility along with a pie potluck social.