Erin Hachtel sorts over some of the food collected for the Feed the 5,000 food collection by Bowling Green area churches. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)

Despite coming up short of the original goal, the first-time effort of Bowling Green churches to "Feed the 5,000" was still a great success.

Erin Hachtel, director of ministries and outreach at First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green, coordinated the combined effort for Wood County Area Ministries. She said the dozen churches which participated gathered 4,500 items during the Lenten season which are being distributed to local food pantries.

"I am thrilled with the result," Hachtel said. "Churches all over the city worked together and made this happen. God is surely smiling on that effort."

Each of 12 churches were given two different items to focus on for their collections. Other donations were also accepted.

The Feed the 5,000 title refers to a miracle of Jesus as documented in all four gospels of the Bible, where Christ feeds multitudes of people with only a small number of loaves and fishes. Though the group had set a goal of more than 5,000 items to be collected, the volume of food collected will certainly provide far more than 5,000 individual meals.

The Bowling Green congregations which participated were the Alliance Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Dayspring Assembly of God, First Christian Church, First Presbyterian Church, First United Methodist Church, Peace Lutheran Church, St. Aloysius Catholic Church, St. Mark's Lutheran Church, St. Thomas More University Parish, Trinity United Methodist Church and Vineyard Church.

First United Methodist served as a collection point for the collection and each type of item had its own table. The vegetable table was among the most crowded with more than 1,000 cans.

There were tables for peanut butter, fruits, cereals, canned and dry pastas, soups, stews and chili, canned meat, juices, rice, beans and more.

The food will be used at the Bowling Green Christian Food Pantry, the monthly food distribution at the host church and other local food pantries.

The BG group took their lead on this project from a similar ongoing program by Perrysburg Christians United. The Perrysburg group has been running its program in one form or another since 1978. Some additional donations may not have made that tally.

Ruth Shaffer, who keeps the statistics for Perrysburg, said this year they collected 2,471 pounds of food. That food is primarily meat as the PCU has a year-round effort to collect other non-perishable items.

"That's pretty good," Shaffer said, noting an increase from the 2,418 pounds collected last year. "The pantry has a lot of fish and meat, so we will be able to help a lot of families."

Shaffer said cash donations are converted into pounds of tuna for purposes of the statistics.

Both programs began collecting items on Ash Wednesday and collected the goods through Easter.