One of my favorite Gospels is the feeding of the multitude. When thousands came to hear Jesus preach, he recognized their hunger for spiritual sustenance – and their physical hunger as well! In the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, we hear a story of faith and care for others, responding to the immediate needs of those seeking a better life - “They all ate and were satisfied.”
Every day, we hear from Catholic Charities agencies across the country who are following in Jesus’ footsteps by providing a sense of hope along with much-needed nourishment and nutrition to people that come to their door for help.
This becomes even more critical in the summer months, when low-income families who rely on school lunch programs suddenly find themselves struggling to provide their children healthy food to eat. According to the latest numbers from the non-profit Feeding America, nearly 17 million children in this country live in households that don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
As a mother and grandmother, this statistic is heartbreaking.
As a network, we’re committed to approaching problems from a new angle, identifying new partnerships and strengthening old ones, and attacking this unacceptable status quo. The Summer Food Service Program, a partnership with the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services, is a key part of our network’s efforts to respond to the needs of the communities they serve.
Last year, our agencies provided much-needed summer meal programs to children in communities from Washington state to the Virgin Islands. All told, 29 of our local agencies ran summer food programs at over 330 sites across the country, providing almost 1.5 million food services to children under 18. This year, our member agencies are at work identifying places where children congregate and developing partnerships at community centers where kids spend their summers, in an effort to continue serving the greatest number of children in the most cost-effective way possible.
CCUSA is committed to broadening our network’s engagement with the Summer Food Service Program and pioneering new approaches to ensuring no child goes hungry. By helping every child in America access healthy and affordable food every day of the year, we are truly following in the footsteps of Our Lord, ensuring that all who are hungry may eat and be satisfied.
Candy Hill is the Executive Vice President of Social Policy and External Affairs at Catholic Charities USA. More information about the Summer Food Service Program can be found at the Food and Nutrition Service’s website. To find feeding sites in a particular area, call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (866-348-6479) or visit the National Hunger Clearinghouse directory.