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Catholic Charities, the St. Lucy Project want to end summer hunger for children

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While most people are thinking about summer vacation, the summer months can be difficult for the food insecure.

According to the Virginia Department of Education and No Kid Hungry, more than 182,000 children in the Diocese of Arlington rely on free and reduced lunches. Yet many students who receive these lunches during the school year do not have access to food during the summer. This causes a strain on the stretched-thin budget of parents who have increased food demand during the summer months. Only 15 percent of children who qualify during the year can access free summer meals.

Diocesan Catholic Charities and the St. Lucy Project in Manassas are hoping to increase participation in the Summer/Hungry Children food drive from May to August. The food drive aims to ease the minds and pocketbooks of parents and provide child-friendly foods, including peanut butter and jelly, individual pasta and fruit cups, cereals and other items easily opened by children.

“If you look at the statistics about the number of students who receive free and reduced lunches during the school year, that will tell the story of what happens when they’re not in school during the summer,” said Patricia Kuntz, outreach specialist for the St. Lucy Project.

Several churches will focus their collections for child-friendly foods: The Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria; St. Veronica Church in Chantilly; St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Middleburg; St. Katharine Drexel Mission in Haymarket; St. Mark Church in Vienna; St. Bernadette Church in Springfield; Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria; St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls; Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville; Church of the Nativity in Burke; Holy Spirit Church in Annandale; and St. Joseph Church in Herndon.

Help with meal packing and sorting the food will come from Vacation Bible school students from Holy Spirit Church in Annandale, the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, and St. John Neumann in Reston. 

The summer food program has gained momentum over the years. In 2016, the focused collection brought in 54,150 pounds and 72,655 pounds the following year. They hope to bring greater awareness of the needs this year. “I am hopeful that we increase our donations from last summer so we can have a greater impact in helping children throughout the summer,” said Kuntz.

Vincent Cannava, program director and food source developer for the St. Lucy Project, said last summer the office set up a distribution plan for the pantries it supports. “We negotiated how much extra we will give them, augmenting their pantries because food flies off the shelves in the summer,” he said. “We are focusing on summer but we cater to children year-round.”

Cannava said the St. Lucy Project operates with a collaborative effort and relies heavily on partnerships. “Our strategy is to reach out and fill in the gaps,” he said. “With a million pounds of food a year, we are making an impact. We know because our pantries and distribution centers are telling us.”

In collaboration with the Emergency Assistance program at Christ House in Alexandria, St. Lucy Project provides food that will be distributed with backpacks for children in August.

The St. Lucy Project supports several food pantries around the area, including ForK, Inc. (For Kids) to provide food for their weekend supplement program in Prince William Counties; and Madison Emergency Services Association.

The St. Lucy Project is installing a refrigeration and freezer system to allow the collection of fresh foods. In addition to the Summer/Hungry Children collection, St. Lucy Project has a Fall Harvest and Winter/Lent food drive. 

Find out more

Donate online at ccda.net/donate

Watch the St. Lucy Project video https://youtu.be/Seom1_CuPFE



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018