UCC ramps up food pantries, hot meals in flooded Midwest

A widespread disaster with no end in sight has kept a massive area of the U.S. Midwest under water for more than a month, since the “bomb cyclone” brought heavy snow and/or rain along with high winds to more than a dozen states in mid-March. 

At least four people have died, and thousands have been displaced. Stretches of major highways have been damaged, with some still under water, and are closed.  Waste water treatment and electrical systems have been compromised. Millions of bushels of stored crops have been lost.

Floods across the Midwest have caused billions of dollars of damage to homes, farms and other businesses.  Continued rains in the Midwest and Ohio Valley, as well as floodwaters from the upper Mississippi River, are heading down the Mississippi.

Where water has receded, people are assessing the damage to their homes and deciding whether to rebuild, demolish or leave, said an Iowa pastor whose church is helping survivors with hot meals and a food pantry. 

As communities begin to assess needs, UCC Disaster Ministries and Conference Disaster Coordinators are helping activate long-term recovery groups even as they working to support local UCC congregations in their initial response and already has provided $15,000 to local UCC food pantries and hot meals programs in hard-hit Nebraska and Iowa. 

This early financial support to communities is made possible through giving to the One Great Hour of Sharing’s Emergency USA Fund.

“Among everything else you lose in flooding are all the groceries you had in your pantry,” said the Rev. Brice Hughes of Burlington, Iowa, coordinating the UCC’s disaster response in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.  “Even with regular income, it’s a challenge to restock your pantry staples.” 

To help, UCC Disaster Ministries solidarity grants of $3,000 each have gone to UCC congregations in Columbus, Omaha, Fremont and Arlington, Neb., and in Glenwood, Iowa. The latter - First Congregational - is partnering with other local churches to feed 100 people three meals a day every day (330 meals a day on average), Hughes reported. “There is no end in sight to the need. People aren’t back in their homes yet. They estimate that if they were buying all the food they are preparing, it would cost approximately $3 a meal ($990 a day). They have received other donations of cash and in-kind. This response of theirs is massive.”

Along with meals, the Glenwood churches are stepping up spiritual support. The Rev. Susan Reed of First Congregational Church said, “We were (just) told the chances (some) homes could be salvaged was slim, and we would need to be much more prevalent at the site to provide comfort and care to those seeing their homes for the first time.”

Reed added, “(We) continually request prayers for solidarity and cooperation of all involved to meet the many needs of all those suffering.”

Hughes emphasized, “This is not a ‘past-tense disaster.’ It is a ‘present-tense’ disaster. The flood event in some places is going to be record length.” Nebraska and Iowa are bracing for even more water from the spring thaw in states to their west and north. Vast swaths of land, farms, homes and businesses are submerged, with damages estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

UCC Disaster Ministries’ strength and focus remains on supporting long-term recovery work, which is the costliest and most underserved phase after a disaster. To join UCC Disaster Ministries in meeting future needs please give at "Emergency USA Fund."

The UCC's Response

UCC Disaster Ministries has contributed an initial $15,000 to begin the response to the needs of families and communities in impacted areas. Funds are to support food pantries and meals programs.

Worship Resources

Prayers for this disaster are encouraged. Share yours at disasters@ucc.org

Ways to Help

  • Pray for all impacted by disasters including those directly impacted, their families and friends. Pray for all those involved as first responders such as fire, police, and other emergency management professionals and volunteers.

  • DO NOT collect “stuff” and/or attempt to ship material items to the impacted region(s). Click here to learn why cash is best.

  • DO assemble Emergency Cleanup Buckets, Personal Hygiene Kits or School Kits. Click here to learn more.   

  • Click Here to download "12 Ways To Support Disaster Survivors" for more ways to help.

  • Make a donation to the "Emergency USA Fund" or by mail (see address at the top of the page).