‘Fall Harvest’ helps fight hunger

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There are currently 219,000 people who are food insecure in the Arlington Diocese, according to Feeding America, a hunger relief organization. These families, especially those with children, are so limited in their resources that they run out of food, need to reduce the nutritional quality of what they can access, or skip meals entirely. 

In response to Christ’s command that we feed the hungry (Matthew 25: 35), Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington (CCDA) established Christ House on Wheels (CHOW) in 2007. The food was stored and packed for distribution to rural pantries in Christ House’s basement. 

"The St. Lucy Project gives us a clear path to encounter our neighbor and grow in our faith." - Art Bennett, president and CEO of Catholic Charities

The Virginia State Deputy for the Knights of Columbus, Tom Harger, initiated a partnership in 2012 between the Knights’ Food for Families program and CHOW. Local councils became involved and increased the impact of food distribution in Northern Virginia. 

In November 2014, thanks to financial commitments to CCDA from the Partners United in the Heart of Christ Leadership Initiative, the CHOW program was expanded and CCDA’s food security efforts were renamed the St. Lucy Project.

The main hub of the St. Lucy Project is a food storage facility in Manassas that supports existing CCDA food pantries in Alexandria, Front Royal and Leesburg. Each location operates with a model that allows clients to pick up items for free to accommodate their dietary needs and food preferences. Refrigeration and freezer units in these pantries increase the distribution of nutritious food choices. The pantries rely on donated items from individuals, parishes, supermarkets, farmers and restaurants. A large commercial refrigeration unit will be installed in the Manassas warehouse in 2017, which will further expand the perishable food resources.

A  game-changer

The St. Lucy Project has been a game-changer, distributing just under 1 million pounds of food throughout the diocese in FY 2016. It also provides corporate and lay volunteer experiences, including harvesting fresh produce from farms. 

A core feature of the St. Lucy Project is building partnerships with those who share CCDA’s mission. Several networks have committed to serving the hungry and pledged their resources, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Northern Neck Food Bank, Capital Area Food Bank, ME Flow, Sheehy Auto Stores and the Knights.

The Knights are instrumental in distributing food to rural pantries in the Northern Neck, western and southern parts of the diocese, as well as providing volunteer support in collecting and transporting food. 

"Pope Francis calls for the integration of our love of Christ and our love of our neighbor, especially the poor,” said Art Bennett, president and CEO of Catholic Charities. “The St. Lucy Project gives us a clear path to encounter our neighbor and grow in our faith."

Parishes have opportunities to engage through three themed food collections: Fall Harvest (Sep.-Dec.), Winter/Lent (Jan.-April), and Summer/Hungry Children (May-Aug.). 

Parishioners are given a blue St. Lucy Project shopping bag with a list of desired food items to return the following week. The food is taken to one of the St. Lucy collection sites, weighed and processed for distribution. Volunteers greatly aid in processing donated foods to their ultimate destination.

Three parishes have gardens that donate to the St. Lucy Project. The Christ House pantry also has a garden for walk-in clients. 

Find out more

To volunteer, contact Debra Beard at dbeard@ccda.net. To set up a food drive, contact Patricia Kuntz at pkuntz@ccda.net.

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016