Sharing Seeds to distribute 600 bags of food to children in January

While pandemic has brought challenges, work continues to feed the community's youngest residents in need.

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Sharing Seeds packing volunteers Mankwa Bow, 13, of Worthington, and Keri Statema of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, pack food into plastic bags Monday morning at First Lutheran Church in Worthington as the Rev. Jeanette McCormick restocks some of their supplies. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — When Worthington’s First Lutheran Church answered a community need in 2017 to provide food for local elementary school children on long holiday weekends, it wanted to ensure the program would be self-sustaining.

Now, three years later and in the midst of a global pandemic, Sharing Seeds continues to grow in its mission to see that children in our communities aren’t going hungry. It remains able to meet the needs thanks to a variety of grants and the generosity of businesses, individuals and organizations.

The program sprouted after counselors at Prairie Elementary approached the Worthington Ministerial Association with an idea to send food home with children who didn’t have enough to eat on long weekends away from school. They were very concerned that students were not always able to access food, recalled First Lutheran Church Rev. Jeanette McCormick.

The church applied for a Domestic Hunger grant from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America to develop the program, and serves as the fiscal agent for Sharing Seeds. With the initial grant, First Lutheran hosted some Better Together food packing events, and from those events, it raised more money to grow Sharing Seeds.

Steady growth

What initially began as a program to send food home with students over seven long weekends eventually grew to provide food for students on a monthly basis. Meanwhile, McCormick said it expanded the program to Worthington’s middle and high schools, the ALC, Head Start and St. Mary’s school.


“The amount of food that’s gone out has definitely increased,” McCormick shared. “In January, we will send out about 600 bags — that is without Head Start.

“When we started, we were looking at around 350 and it’s slowly increased,” she added.

Always, extra bags are prepared in case counselors hear of need.

The bags contain easy-to-prepare foods like rice, macaroni and cheese, soup, oatmeal and breakfast bars.

Grants, donations feed program

The work of Sharing Seeds wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of others, from individuals to churches and businesses, McCormick said.

Fareway provides a discount on food purchased and also tracks gift cards distributed by Sharing Seeds. At the end of the month, Fareway can turn the gift cards off and any remaining money on the cards becomes store credit for Sharing Seeds to purchase more food.

“It really helps us to maximize what we do and not waste food,” McCormick said.

The Ministerial Association contributes toward Sharing Seeds and also helps with food packing, while some churches have given monetary donations.


“It’s really been a community effort,” McCormick said. “We could not do this alone. I’m thankful for the ecumenical support and the relationships I’ve been able to build through this program.”

Recent donations to Sharing Seeds have come from the Southwest Initiative Foundation, Walmart, the Worthington Optimist Club, CARES Act money from Nobles County, the Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council, ELCA Southwest Minnesota Synod, ELCA Domestic Hunger, Thrivent Financial and Early Risers Kiwanis.

Previous donors included the Worthington Elks Lodge, Nobles 2 Power Partners, Monogram Meats and the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation.

Individuals who wish to donate to Sharing Seeds may do so through a Go Fund Me page linked on First Lutheran Church’s website, or may donate directly to the church with a notation that the money is for Sharing Seeds.

Spreading seeds during COVID

When Sharing Seeds began, the primary channel to get food to those in need was through Independent School District 518. When the global pandemic reached Minnesota and schools suddenly shuttered in March, the church sought alternate paths to distribute food.

McCormick said while teachers and school counselors delivered food to some families, First Lutheran Church also partnered with various other churches and individuals who had specific connections to community groups.

“We used the entryways in several churches to provide food for families, and we tried to send food home quickly when schools were closing down,” she said. “Other churches helped pull that off.”

During the summer, they packed foods with a longer shelf life, which school counselors delivered to families as needed.


“That’s really helped us reach out when we can’t necessarily access the students,” said McCormick, offering her thanks to counselors and teachers for going “above and beyond for the students.”

Not only was the program’s mode of distribution altered by COVID, so too were its church-led assembly line packing events. No longer could it have large groups of people working together to fill bags with food.

Today, a stockpile of food and a packing station are set up inside the church’s fellowship hall. Both Fareway and Hy-Vee have delivered food to the site, and that’s where people can also drop off donations.

Volunteers are asked to sign up for a time to come in and help bag food, and more volunteers are always welcome, McCormick said. To volunteer, contact McCormick via email at; or call or text (612) 636-1533.

“We’re having individuals, families or small groups of five people or less that are pre-determined,” McCormick said. “We won’t put together a group of five people, but if there’s a group that wants to come together, they can.

“We do require masks and they slowly work on packaging whatever needs to be packaged,” she added.

While its mission continues to be feeding the hungry, McCormick said in no way is the program meant to duplicate the efforts of Worthington’s food shelves.

“Our goal is to help those families who need extra support, may not be able to access food banks or have been too ill during this COVID time,” she shared.


While there are times when McCormick wonders how long the program can continue, donors and volunteers continue to come forward.

“Thanks be to God and for the people who have stepped up in our community,” she said. “It’s a blessing to see so many people involved in a wide variety of efforts for the wellbeing of our community during these trying times.”

After three years, McCormick isn’t sure what the future holds for Sharing Seeds.

“When we started this program, the plan was to maintain it as long as possible,” she said. “My hope is that through donors and grants, we will continue to provide as long as there is need.”

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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