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Arlington food pantry receives a $45,000 grant

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In March, volunteers at the food pantry of Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington braced themselves for a surge of new clients. Months later, the surge has not abated. Though the parish and Arlington community have been extremely generous, the volunteers knew they needed to find additional support wherever they could.


This month, the parish received a $45,000 Nourishing Neighbors Summer Meals Program grant from Albertsons, the parent company of Safeway. By the volunteers’ calculations, the money will help them cover a month of distribution at their current level of need. For years, they had provided food each week to more than 200 families. Now, it’s more than 600.


“Because we’ve gotten really good at the food sourcing, the estimated cost of each bag that we give out is around $17, and we give out an average of 613 bags per week. With 4.35 weeks in a month, that gets you to $45,331,” said Michaela Sims Stewart, volunteer COVID-19 Crisis Coordinator. “That does not include some of the extra things we include, such as produce. We’ve tried to ramp that up.”


To meet social distancing requirements, at the start of the pandemic the parish scaled back the number of volunteers working together to hand out the food. But a number of people were able to help in other ways. “We have easily over 90 new volunteers on top of the longtime volunteers, and those volunteers have done everything from food sourcing research to physically going out into the store, because most of the online ordering wasn’t reliable,” said Sims Stewart. Others researched funding sources such as grants.


The Nourishing Neighbors grant is money that can be used anywhere volunteers choose to purchase the rice, oil, pasta and the other food they pack into bags each week. Sims Stewart and the other parishioners involved with the food pantry are excited and grateful to have it.


“This is so generous and we are doing backflips because it’s a recognition of the value that Queen of Peace is providing for the community right now,” said Sims Stewart. “It gives us some breathing room to know there’s more to help us get through this.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020