James Wheeler

MCC East Coast partners with Anabaptist churches to distribute grocery bags packed with nonperishable food through local ministries.

Each year, members of the North Baltimore Mennonite Church mission committee select a giving project for the congregation to support.

Last year, with the help of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) East Coast, they chose a mission partner in their own backyard: Mount Clare Christian School in southwest Baltimore.

Members of Baltimore’s Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church founded Mount Clare in 1997, aiming to offer a new educational opportunity in a neighborhood where school dropout rates exceeded 80 percent. Today, 35 students attend the school in grades three through 12.

“We see many signs of brokenness around us, but our school exists as a beacon of hope,” said Mount Clare principal Eboni Zook. “We seek to develop Christian leaders who will play an active role in restoring our community.”

Members of North Baltimore Mennonite Church’s mission committee asked Zook if their congregation could collect MCC grocery bags packed with nonperishable food for Mount Clare students and families. Zook agreed, seeing the project as a way to complement the nutrition education Mount Clare teachers include in their curricula.

Each year, MCC East Coast partners with Anabaptist churches to distribute nearly 3,000 packed grocery bags through congregations’ local ministries. The bags include:

  • vegetable oil (32 oz.)
  • pasta (2 lbs.)
  • raisins (1 lb.)
  • white rice (32 oz.)
  • 2 cans meat (chicken or tuna) (12oz.)
  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 oz.)
  • 2 cans fruit (14 - 20 oz.)
  • 2 cans vegetables (14 - 16 oz.)
  • 2 cans beans (15.5 oz.)
  • 1 box of cereal (14 - 18 oz.)
  • peanut butter (28 oz.)

At North Baltimore Mennonite Church, members collected bag contents throughout Advent. In the days before Christmas, Zook distributed the packed bags, which included homemade applesauce donated by members of a Plain Mennonite community in Maryland, to Mount Clare students and families.

“For many of our families, it was a real need to have these groceries,” said Zook. “It was very much appreciated.”

North Baltimore Mennonite Church members also partnered with the MCC East Coast Material Resources Center in Ephrata, Pa., to distribute handmade comforters to students receiving grocery bags.

Jonathan Clemens, chair of the mission committee at North Baltimore Mennonite Church, said participating in the grocery bag and comforter collection helped his congregation connect with other local Anabaptists, even across cultural divides. “This project helped us feel connected despite our differences,” said Clemens.

If your congregation is interested in collecting or distributing MCC grocery bags, please contact the MCC East Coast Material Resources Center at 717-733-2847 or EastCoastMRC@mcc.org to request empty bags or to coordinate your donation.