Imagine for a moment that you are an immigrant to this country, trying to build a better life for you and your family. You work hard, sometimes at multiple jobs just to support your family’s most basic needs. To further improve your life and to increase your chances of securing a job that pays even more, you enroll in Catholic Charities’ English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and spend several evenings a week sitting in a classroom to learn English. Now imagine sitting through an ESOL class trying to learn a new language on an empty stomach because you didn’t have time to eat during your day job or jobs. You also didn’t have enough money to bring a meal to class because you spent your last few dollars to take public transportation to get to class. Would you be able to fully concentrate on your work? Would you have energy left after a full day’s work to sit and learn a new language? Would you be able to focus long enough to absorb and apply what you’ve learned? No, of course not. Sadly, this scenario is very real for hundreds of the dedicated students in our ESOL program.
At Catholic Charities, we are all too familiar with how hunger affects the thousands of families living in poverty in our community. We also know that food insecurity takes many forms and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing this problem. So, to combat hunger in the DC region, Catholic Charities recently launched its third annual Virtual Food Drive.
To fully understand the scope of the issue in our community alone, consider this troubling, eye-opening data from Feeding America:
- There are approximately 27,990 children in Prince George’s Country who go to bed hungry each night.
- The District has a food insecurity rate of 14.5% due to factors including food deserts and many 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.
The Virtual Food Drive is a unique approach to fighting the various forms of food insecurity, raising money to support not one, but four food assistance programs.
By giving to the Virtual Food Drive, you will ensure that vulnerable populations have access to nutritional food that fits their specific needs through initiatives including:
- Southern Maryland Food Bank – This holiday season, the Southern Maryland Food Bank, with generous support from donors, will provide families struggling with food insecurity everything they need for a delicious holiday dinner including a ham.
- SHARE Food Network – A SHARE food package filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen protein, and shelf staples will provide stability for participants in the Welcome Home Reentry program as they transition back into society after incarceration.
- St. Maria’s Meals – Sixty people living on the streets will be served healthy, protein-packed sandwiches each week as part of St. Maria’s Meals Bike Brigade. Volunteers pedal adult-sized tricycles outfitted with delivery baskets into the community, meeting the homeless where they are.
- Cup of Joe – Hundreds of men and women enrolled in Catholic Charities’ evening ESOL classes will receive snack packs before each class to give them the sustenance to excel in their studies and reduce their food insecurity.
Catholic Charities has been on the front lines of the fight against hunger in the region. Last year alone, we provided more than 2.5 million meals to those in need and 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.
Please be the reason that we are able to feed our neighbors, so we don’t have to imagine what it’s like to struggle to learn valuable skills on an empty stomach; or what it’s like to be a returning citizen who can’t afford nutritious groceries after being incarcerated; or what it’s like to wonder how to provide your family with the delicious meal they deserve for the holiday; or what it’s like to live on the street, in the cold, wondering when- or even if you’ll get your next meal. Be the reason that food insecurity doesn’t prevent those in need from experiencing the hope and joy of the holiday season.
Go to www.catholiccharitiesdc.org/vfd for information on how to donate and volunteer. You also can contribute to the Virtual Food Drive by liking and sharing our Facebook posts, retweeting our Twitter posts and sharing word with your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.