Calif. megachurch initiative distributes $44K in groceries to families in need

Volunteers serve at a food distribution event hosted by Rock Church in Southern California on May 16, 2020.
Volunteers serve at a food distribution event hosted by Rock Church in Southern California on May 16, 2020. | Rock Church/Christy Radecic

Many churches across the United States are partnering with local organizations to provide food to hundreds of people in need in their communities as the coronavirus pandemic has caused economic hardship and food insecurity for many families. 

The five-campus Rock Church in Southern California partnered with local support groups and the city of El Cajon to distribute over $44,500 in groceries to hundreds in the San Diego suburb who are in need. 

Last Saturday, Rock Church’s East County Campus hosted a drive-through style food-and-grocery distribution that ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

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The distribution event allowed partner organizations to pick up grocery items to be delivered to residents deemed “most vulnerable and at-risk during the COVID-19 crisis.” 

The Rock Church distribution was funded by the city in partnership with local nonprofits Home of Guiding Hands and Step Into Success. The effort resulted in the distribution of 48,000 pounds of groceries to 445 households, according to an announcement from the church.

“Saturday was a very special day! It was such an honor to partner with the Rock Church to distribute food to people in need in the Community of El Cajon,” Mayor Bill Wells said in a statement. “We are thankful for The Rock Church, Pastor Miles and Pastor Greg Hendricks and his team for collaborating with the city of El Cajon to help serve the needs of people in our community.”

Rock Church partnered with an organization called 2-1-1 San Diego, which provides data and trend information for proactive community planning, to help the church gain a better understanding of the people most in need of food and grocery items in the area. 

The social demographics highlighted as most vulnerable were transitional youth ages 16 to 21, people with medical needs and disabilities, pregnant women, as well as families in crisis. 

According to the church, these social groups were not being served by other humanitarian agencies. 

Other partners in the Rock Church distribution effort include San Diego Youth Services, Pregnancy Care Clinic, Crisis East House County, Becky’s House, ARC East County, Miracle 139 and Catalyst. 

El Cajon Deputy Mayor Phil Ortiz called the grocery distribution “a story of the community coming together.”

“I reached out to our City Manager, Graham Mitchell, and said, ‘We need to get food out here!’ We reached out to the Rock and they were on top of it right away,” Ortiz said in a statement. “The Rock Church with their manpower and their volunteers just rearing to go really stepped up in a big way as they always do and have been for many years in the community.”

According to the San Diego Food Bank, over 450,000 (177,000 children) residents of San Diego County face food insecurity every day. 

Mitchell said in a statement that the city found a way to “carve out funds from our own coffers” to help Rock Church serve the city. Mitchell said El Cajon is “blessed” to have Rock Church and the other organizations with a passion to serve. 

“[G]iving the Rock Church these funds was important because we knew 100% was going to go towards the people,” Mitchell added. 

The multicampus Abundant Life Church in Portland, Oregon, has also partnered with other organizations to provide food to communities in need during the pandemic. 

According to a press release, staff and volunteers from Abundant Life Church have for the past three weeks delivered two truckloads of food donated by organic growers to Catholic Charities. 

Food items sit on U-Haul truck rented by Abundant Life Church in Portland, Oregon to deliver donated food items.
Food items sit on U-Haul truck rented by Abundant Life Church in Portland, Oregon to deliver donated food items. | Abundant Life Church

From Catholic Charities, the food is distributed to households in need. One target recipient for the food is refugee families, many of whom rely on free meals provided by schools.  

“We’re delivering boxes of food this week to homes where people have not been able to get groceries since initial school closures,” Stephanie Coleman from Catholic Charities said in a statement. “[S]o this is saving people’s lives in many ways.”

On Easter Sunday, Abundant Life Church collected over 5,000 pounds of food supplies. Before the pandemic struck, the church had planned to take an Easter offering to benefit Portland Rescue Mission. But since the church couldn’t gather for Easter, a food drive was held instead. During the drive, cars pulled up to deliver items to the church. 

Since then, Abundant Life Church has opened one of its campuses to be a collection site for foster families. 

Abundant Life Church volunteers are also making phone calls to over 30,000 vulnerable people across the region to see how the church can serve their needs.  

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Alposento Alto Church is working with Councilwoman Tara Wicker and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Community Policing Division to host drive-through grocery distribution events every Wednesday to help out the city’s Hispanic community. 

“There are so many of our fellow citizens who find it difficult and even impossible to qualify for or access much-needed resources,” Wicker told “These families are especially vulnerable, often forgotten, but represent some of the hardest working and most essential members of our community and local economy.” 

In Southwest Missouri, New Life Fellowship Church in Neosho will for the next several weeks turn its parking lot into a free grocery store. Hundreds of area residents will be able to get fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products at the grocery store, KSN reports. 

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