Filling Gaps to Food Access

Date posted: Thursday 23 May 2019

House of Prayer Lutheran Church in Oakdale has a long history of partnering with Cowern School, which is located less than a mile from our church. It’s not only our local elementary school, but it’s also the location where we held our first services over 50 years ago, before our church building was built.


One of the ways the church supports the school is by its involvement in The Sheridan Story, which works to combat hunger in our community by filling the gaps to food access that children face: primarily weekends and summers.


House of Prayer supports the Sheridan project at Cowern in three ways:

  1. Providing support financially: We fundraise about $2,500 each year to provide food for Cowern students during the school year. (Note: This amount does not fully cover the cost of providing food for 40 kids throughout the school year.) We fundraise throughout the year through special collections, special events, and our “Sheridan Piggy Bank.” The bank gets put out each Sunday and people put their extra coins or bills in to help us get to our fundraising goal.
  2.  Providing volunteers: We have a volunteer who coordinates two of our members each week to pick up about 40 bags of food from House of Prayer and deliver it to Cowern School, where they are met by a staff person who walks them around the building to ensure that the proper bags get put in the correct backpacks. We provide food every week during the school year. If the school has a week of vacation, our volunteers will deliver twice the week prior on different days to ensure that kids’ backpacks don’t get too heavy with food.
  3. Providing food storage: We provide secure and dry storage for the cases of food that the Sheridan Project delivers to us throughout the year. We also monitor our supply and contact Sheridan when we are due for another delivery.


House of Prayer has been providing food for kids at Cowern Elementary for the past two years.  Our prior relationship with Cowern made this transition into bringing food weekly a very easy task.  We are blessed to also be supported by some fabulous staff at Cowern.  Our main contact, Sari Maltrud, was a great resource for our project.  Because Sari had experience running this program at another school, she made it very easy for us to begin the project at Cowern.  She does much of the harder work for us.  She is responsible for signing kids up for the project, tracking how many packages she wants us to deliver each week (which changes often), creating the system to “mark” backpacks so that we know which ones get the packages, and reporting back to The Sheridan Story.


This ministry has brought our congregation a lot of joy with pretty minimal work on our end.  We’ve learned a few tricks throughout the two years, both in how we coordinate and manage our volunteers and also in how Cowern manages the project to keep it easy for our volunteers.  In the end, because of the great support we received from Cowern Elementary, beginning this ministry was really a matter of fundraising the money, finding people who were strong enough to move the cases around, and ensuring we had enough storage space.  We would highly encourage other congregations to look into creating a partnership with The Sheridan Story and the local elementary school.


Sara Martin
Parish Administrator
House of Prayer Lutheran Church, Oakdale


The Sheridan Story is seeking additional churches and community organizations to sponsor other schools. It also welcomes  financial donations, fundraising efforts and volunteers. The Sheridan Story, headquartered in Roseville, distributes more than 23,000 meals to kids in our community each week. Learn more at