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Bishop Burbidge blesses walk-in refrigerator, freezer at St. Lucy Project

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When someone doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from, eating fresh food can seem like a pipe dream. But the St. Lucy Project Manassas warehouse is changing that with the addition of a walk-in refrigerator and freezer system. 

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge blessed the newest additions at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 21. “What a blessing it is to know we are doing the corporal works of mercy and feeding the hungry,” he said. “When we recognize need, we don’t want to get paralyzed thinking we can’t do everything, but we can do something and we are doing something really good here.


“When we ask God to bless it we can be assured God will use it in miraculous ways that maybe we don’t even imagine,” said Bishop Burbidge.

“This gives us the capacity to provide a significant amount of healthier food to the hungry poor — fresh produce year-round, with farm-picked produce during the growing season, and meats primarily year-round,” said Vincent Cannava, program director and food source developer for the St. Lucy Project. “It also provides us the capability to take advantage of spot donations within hours of offers and special pricing offers with our increased storage capacity.”  

Tucked behind the 1,200 square-foot office is a 4,800 square-foot warehouse. The refrigerator is 18 feet long, 21 feet wide and 16 feet high. It will allow a forklift inside to place perishable items into 18 pallet locations. The freezer is 18 feet long, 15 feet wide and 10 feet high. 

The refrigerator holds perishable foods, including corn, broccoli, kale, squash, cucumbers and peppers, with some of it coming straight off the farm.  

“We have already distributed 5,000 pounds of corn from the refrigerator and a few pallets of milk as a result of spot, short notice donations,” said Cannava. “In the freezer, we already have collected 7,000 pounds of meat since it has gone operational.”

Art Bennett, president and CEO of Arlington diocesan Catholic Charities, said part of the plan was not to just get people food, but healthy food. “This is a population that sometimes is pretty stuck eating food out of cans or fast food, which creates health problems,” said Bennett. “We are trying to bridge the gap to give people healthy food throughout our diocese.”

Bill and Mary Noel Page, who were the lead donors for the project, attended and participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Vincent and Mimi Sheehy of Sheehy Auto also participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“It’s a great cause and St. Lucy Project has an incredible distribution system throughout the entire diocese,” said Vincent Sheehy. “To be involved in the process early on and see the next phase with the refrigeration system it gives people the opportunity to have so many different food choices. We are blessed to be part of this.” 

A distribution plan is in place so the fresh foods don’t stay onsite any longer than needed, according to Cannava. “The warehouse has as its goal to minimize storage and maximize distribution to those in need,” he said.

Catholic Charities’ three food pantries – in Leesburg, Front Royal and Alexandria —as well as more than 50 other pantries, will receive this fresh food. 

Additional volunteers are needed to distribute the perishable products, according to Cannava. 

“For example, we could set a goal of 6,000 pounds of fresh produce monthly during the growing season from June to November, but the vehicles and volunteers need to be in balance to distribute that amount,” he said. 

In mid-July, 77 students collected more than 10,000 pounds of corn, which was then stored at the warehouse. Cannava said a plan was in place for distribution. “We demonstrated after that collection that we could deliver 5,000 pounds of corn in three weeks for starters, but need to have the volunteers and vehicles to sustain that pace on a regular basis.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018