Hunger Ministries


The Hunger Task Force (now Hunger Committee) was formed in 2006 at the request of Pastor Ross Merkel. Historically, our community has supported the Alameda Community Food Bank, ELCA World Hunger, Mercy Brown Bag for Seniors, St. Mary’s Senior Center and a food pantry of grocery donations that support Family Support Services of the East Bay and the families associated with St. Mary’s Center. Our community also fundraises for gift cards for the Alternative Christmas families.

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Mercy Brown Bag

Mercy Brown Bag (MBB), powered by senior volunteers, sorts, packs, and distributes groceries for low-income seniors to 17 sites throughout Alameda County.

Since 2014, St. Paul volunteers have staffed a well-attended distribution site twice a month.

Watch Mercy Brown Bag’s Stewardship Temple Talk:

When COVID-19 hit, Mercy Brown Bag expanded its program exponentially to address the growing hunger needs of Oakland seniors. In response to the shelter-in-place orders and the desire to keep elders safe, MBB altered its operations by:

  • creating nutritious bags of groceries instead of our regular “shopping” style of distribution; and
  • delivering these food bags directly to senior member’s homes at no charge — expanding to serve additional new senior members by over 1000.

During shelter-in-place orders, St. Paul provided its fellowship hall to MBB, giving volunteers a place to pack groceries in a socially-distanced space. This enabled thousands of older adults to remain safe at home and still have the nutrition they needed to thrive.

Last year, MBB program distributed 60,000 grocery bags stuffed with more than one million pounds of food to nearly 5,000 hungry seniors. A team of over 500 senior volunteers donated more than 21,000 hours of their time to sort, pack, and distribute groceries daily, with each bag containing about 20lbs of food. All with the help of new volunteers, many from St. Paul Lutheran Church.


St. Mary’s Center in Oakland is the only dedicated Senior Center in Northern California. Prior to the pandemic, St. Paul volunteers prepared a monthly meal for the residents of St. Mary’s. Volunteer cooks and seniors all sat down together and enjoyed a delicious meal and conviviality. Due to Covid-19, in March 2020 seniors moved to transitional housing. St. Mary’s Center transitioned to a food collection and distribution site and members of the St. Paul Hunger Committee worked to support their expanded role in the community. Food pantry donations were switched to a food drive outside of the church, on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month from 1-2 pm, hosted by Julie Merrill and Kathleen Ferris.

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Other Ministries

In addition to Mercy Brown Bag and St. Mary’s, the Hunger Committee supports the following programs.

  • The annual Empty Bowls fundraiser event at Alameda County Community Food Bank was not held this year due to the pandemic.
  • Family Support Service of the Bay Area discontinued collecting food due to COVID-19, but Safeway gift cards have been donated instead.
  • Alternative Christmas Safeway Gift Card program was supported in 2020 through a generous donation of $2,500, for the families in our Alternative Christmas Program.
  • Luscious Lutheran Jams were generously made by Tim Carlon and sold to raise funds for the Hunger Committee’s ministries, approximately $5000 was raised. All fruits for the jams were donated from local gardens.