They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. At Catholic Charities, this is absolutely true. We know that a warm meal can fill the heart in addition to the stomach. Not only does food nourish our bodies, but it provides a sense of community as we break bread with our families and friends. And while food is one of life’s most basic necessities, far too many people are left hungry or food insecure, causing them to feel isolated. According to Feeding America, the District has a food insecurity rate of 14.5 percent due to factors including food deserts and the number of families living significantly below the federal poverty line. More than 82,000 people suffer from some form of food insecurity in DC – 31,000 of whom are children.
At Catholic Charities, we’re working tirelessly to make sure no one goes hungry or feels alone. In 2019, we served 2.5 million meals to those struggling with food insecurity. We distributed more than 1 million pounds of food to local pantries. More than 28,000 people were served through our weekly St. Maria’s Meals dinner program, and more than 32,000 people were able to purchase affordable, nutritious groceries through the SHARE Food Network. We provided 7,500 meals to children and seniors in southern Maryland through the Snack Sak program, and we distributed nearly 95,000 Cup of Joe breakfast bags to residents of our homeless shelters.
Food is love. This is true not only for our clients, but also for the many volunteers who help our food assistance programs. Cesar Chavez once said, “The people who give you their food, give you their heart.” This is seen in the handwritten notes of encouragement volunteers place in every Cup of Joe bag. It’s seen when volunteers trade smiles with clients during the weekly St. Maria’s Meals services. And it’s seen when volunteers work together to assemble SHARE packages to ensure families have nutritious food to put on their tables.
As we celebrate this season of love, we’ll highlight our various food assistance programs that work to fill stomachs and nourish souls.