BOGG Ministries (Because of God’s Grace)
Food pantries need not be merely distribution centers. BOGG ministries takes its food on the road, along with a BBQ party, and delivers help, hope, and joy to vulnerable community members who don’t have transportation to reach other food pantries.
A Food Pantry with a Twist
Over 40 percent of residents in the greater Dayton area qualify for food assistance. For Jason Johnston, one of the founders of BOGG Ministries (Because of God’s Grace), it was hard to know that—and then sit back and do nothing. While Dayton boasts plenteous pantries, Johnston discovered that many people needing food assistance lacked transportation to get to them. So in 2010, he and his co-founder, Jason Barton, purchased a large truck and a trailer and filled it with food from the Dayton Food Bank to take to those areas most in need.
BOGG’s founders want recipients to feel dignity, and part of that involves granting choice. “We take advantage of the fact that we can get to the supermarket whenever we want,” explains Jason. “Our mobile food pantry goes to hungry individuals and asks them: ‘What food do you want?’” Clients are able to ‘shop’ for what they would like from the free groceries. Food offered is that which enables recipients to “prepare meals and enjoy them together as a family,” Jason adds. Currently, the BOGG Mobile Meals truck heads out to set locations every Tuesday and Thursday, as well as the first Saturday of every month.
But BOGG’s founders emphasize they didn’t want the ministry to be solely about the food; they wanted it to be a community-builder. This is why every time the food truck arrives, it comes with entertainment and friendly faces. BOGG typically sets up a grill and prepares a bounty of food, while ministry volunteers oversee activities for kids and entertainment and support for the adults. “It is not just a ‘you’re-struggling-and-need-to-get-food’ pantry,” says Johnston. “Instead, we aim to open up the door to support their needs whilst bringing them together.”
With only two full-time staff, everything at the events is done by local volunteers. From church members to youth groups, the volunteers are all people who share BOGG’s vision for community building. In 2010, volunteers logged a total of 1,100 hours. By 2014 this had increased to 7,900 hours. Each event requires about 30–40 volunteers.
“Our volunteers will carry [the] food to your house or your car and ask if there is anything else you need, such as shoes,” Jason says. Where possible, BOGG meets those material needs itself, if it can, or it connects the family with a local community service group that could help.
BOGG’s volunteers come from a variety of places, including but not limited to local churches. By building up their locations with volunteers from local churches or businesses, BOGG aims to create sustainability should its pantry have to pull out of that area. “We are just the middle-men in building community relationships,” Jason explains. The vision is that in the communities served, volunteers and food recipients will build relationships through which longer-term help can be provided, such as connecting people to job opportunities or helping them with education, child care, or other day-to-day needs. “It is about showing people love,” Jason says, “not preaching at them.”
BOGG has grown exponentially in its first five years. In 2010, they served approximately 160 people. Last year, that total was over 25,000 people at nine locations. They are now taking on two new locations per year in order to reach even more neighbors in need. At its newest location, just launched in April 2015, BOGG has already seen over 200 people come out. “But our numbers have plateaued this year as we have reached the capacity of the truck,” says Johnston, and so they are looking to raise funds to buy a second truck in order to meet the demand.
Food insecurity can have all sorts of negative consequences on a family, from lower grades by kids to an increase in family break-ups. By providing food to vulnerable families, BOGG enables the parent(s) to worry about one less thing.
Jason tells of one family BOGG aided, where the mother had breast cancer and couldn’t work. The father was working extra jobs in order to try to provide for the family but the money didn’t stretch far enough. After receiving food from BOGG, things changed dramatically. With the help provided during that period of hardship, this family got back on their feet to the point where they no longer needed free food. They became volunteers themselves and now donate food to the pantry. Jason explains that BOGG “didn’t change the world for them, but provided a supporting role when they needed it.”
“From day one it was about the people,” he says simply. “We are just trying to be faithful.”