Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A seat at the (dinner) table: fighting food insecurity at Catholic Charities

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Thousands of our neighbors—including thousands of children—go to bed hungry every single night.  According to the Capital Area Food Bank, nearly one in six of our neighbors in the District doesn’t have enough food to eat.  In short, thousands of mothers, fathers and caregivers can’t afford to buy enough food to feed their families.

Over the past two weekends, generous volunteers from our parishes and schools collected canned foods through Share in Hope, an archdiocesan food drive designed to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank, the Southern Maryland Food Bank and the dozens of community-based food pantries operated by Catholic parishes and Catholic Charities programs. 

“Hunger is becoming an increasingly salient issue in our community,” said Teresa Volante, senior program manager for Parish Partners. Parish Partners coordinates the Share in Hope drive each year.  “Simply remembering to purchase a little extra healthy food when you do your own shopping at the grocery store is a quick and easy way to help those who are in need.”

According to this article from the Washington Post, nearly ten percent of people in the Washington region are food insecure.

That’s far too many. Aside from The Share in Hope Food Drive, here are other ways Catholic Charities recently has been helping hungry families:

On March 15 food distributor Goya marked its 75th anniversary by pledging more than a million pounds of food to organizations in more than 12 cities around the country.  Locally, Goya distributed 75,000 pounds of food to local area pantries through its Goya Gives campaign at the Capital Area Food Bank last week.  Food pantries at our Montgomery County Family Center and Spanish Catholic Center accepted 1,000 pounds of Goya rice, beans and hot sauce.  And all that yummy food packing the shelves goes a long way toward feeding local families seeking help through Catholic Charities.

Brenda DiCarlo, the Program Manager at our Southern Maryland Food Bank, is also familiar with the difficulties many families face when looking for a healthy meal.

“It’s up to providers in Southern Maryland to step up and meet the growing demand for affordable, healthy food,” Brenda said.  In response, she’s coordinated the 3rd Annual Southern Maryland Hunger Conference, bringing together dozens of providers of free or low-cost food as a way to share resources and strategies as more and more families come to pantries, food kitchens and shelters looking for a meal.

Last year, the Southern Maryland Food Bank distributed 655,199 pounds of food to 25 local pantries, group homes, soup kitchens and shelters across Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland.  That’s a 72 percent increase from the previous year! More than 35,000 people received emergency food thanks to the support of Brenda and the Food Bank.   The Food Bank always needs volunteers and extra canned foods.  Learn how you can contribute.

Our SHARE Food Network distributes a whopping 130,000 food packages each year across the region, saving customers of all backgrounds $3 million on their grocery bill.  SHARE’s innovative system guarantees reduced food costs for buyers by making monthly bulk purchases from food wholesalers and depending on volunteers to help keep overhead very low.   The more buyers there are, the more volunteers can help package and distribute food.  And that means affordable food for everyone.  If you haven’t been to a SHARE Food distribution day (they happen every third week of the month), you really need to see this incredible effort in motion – great volunteer opportunity!

And remember, food is something we all need year-round, not just during holidays or Lent, so donate a can today, or give one of our programs a call to see how you can help!

Pictured above: Volunteers at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Derwood, Md., load up donations during last weekend's Share in Hope collection.