Washington City Church of the Brethren “laid down” the Brethren Nutrition Program on September 29th, 2017. BNP is no longer in operation.
Please find our letter to volunteers and supporters below. We hope to have an archived page up very soon, memorializing our 37 years of service.
To our Brothers and Sisters,
We write with hope, gratitude, and some sadness. After much discernment and assessment, Washington City Church of the Brethren has decided to “lay down” the Brethren Nutrition Program.
Our program was founded in 1980, under the leadership of Pastor Duane Ramsey and BVSer Richard Davis. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was frequented by between 200-300 guests per lunch. Over the past 20 years, our program attendance has steadily declined. While we’ve gone through some periods of instability, our program has been open and stable for 8 months and we have maintained our current average of 22 guests per lunch service. Attendance is an important factor in measuring program performance. Our program’s low attendance is not able to offset our bare-bones budget, which has resulted in a $12.55 cost per meal. We could serve five times the number of people we do with the money we spend, but despite outreach efforts and consistent hours, we have not seen a significant increase in program attendance.
Our kitchen is in desperate need of renovation and, with a $50,000 project just tipping off the renovation process, it made us question how much longer the program would be around. DC has changed in the nearly 40 years since we opened. Poverty, hunger, and homelessness on Capitol Hill look very different than when our program was founded. At a recent DC Food Policy Council meeting, we learned that Ward 6 (where our program is located) is home to 10 grocery stores for about 75,000 residents, while Wards 7 & 8 have three grocery stores between the two of them for a total of nearly 140,000 residents. It is unlikely that Capitol Hill will ever have the same volume of people experiencing homelessness and food scarcity as it did when our program began. Additionally, service providers like Capitol Hill Group Ministry have made great strides in addressing chronic homelessness in DC. These facts have led our church community to decide to “lay down” the ministry, giving thanks for what has been done. Many meals have been served, kind words shared, and relationships built.
While there are reduced needs, we do still serve lunch and mail to some people. Thankfully, there are other organizations in Capitol Hill that provide a variety of services who will be able to fill any gaps caused by our closing. Shirley’s Place, a day center run by Capitol Hill Group Ministry, provides snacks, showers, computer access, and more, to people in need. It is about a 15 minute walk from our church. Across the street, there is Our Daily Bread at the Capitol Hill United Methodist Church, who serve breakfast five days a week and a meal after church on Sundays. Further out, SOME serves breakfast and lunch in addition to providing clothing, showers, medical care, and case management to people experiencing homelessness.
We are so grateful for the decades-long support from local volunteers, spring break groups, and from churches and individuals across our Church of the Brethren denomination. Congregations, workcamps, BVSers, individual volunteers, and more: the ministry of Brethren Nutrition Program has certainly been enriched, sustained, and encouraged by sisters and brothers across the US. We recognize that this decision may bring many emotions. We have volunteers and supporters who have given so much love, effort, time, commitment, and funds to the Brethren Nutrition Program. Please know that we did not enter into this conversation or this decision lightly. Thank you for what you have done and how you have supported the cause of serving hungry neighbors on Capitol Hill. If you are interested in volunteering before the program comes to a close, you can sign up here . We are in particular need of volunteers for this coming Monday, August 21st, and throughout the month of September.
Many within our own community are asking, “what’s next?” We are going to continue a discernment process for how our church can get to know our community better and find other ways to meet community needs. We welcome your insight, input, and–most especially–your thoughts and prayers. We are thankful to be “laying down” the ministry of BNP during a period of stability, as opposed to a crisis time, and that we have an opportunity to grow our church’s ministries in a new way.
Again, we are tremendously grateful for your continued and dedicated support.
Brethren Nutrition Program Operations Manager
Minister, Washington City Church of the Brethren
The Brethren Nutrition Program existed for 37 years, to serve hungry neighbors on Capitol Hill, providing healthy and wholesome lunches to those in need.
With its open door policy, the Soup Kitchen welcomed everyone to join in the meals – there were no eligibility requirements. Many of the guests were unemployed and homeless; others were employed, but resided in shelters while they searched for permanent, affordable housing. A meal at the Soup Kitchen also became one way that a number of guests were able to stretch severely limited incomes.