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Members of the Fredericksburg Food Security Program pack 100 meals

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It looked like a small grocery store inside the St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception parish life center in Fredericksburg May 19. Tables were stacked with items to assemble bags, each containing a meal for a family of four.  

Packing the bags were members of the parish outreach committee, Father John P. Mosimann, pastor, and a religious education confirmation class. 

It took less than 30 minutes to pack 100 bags with a balanced meal selection of protein, vegetables, fruit and starches. 

Micah Ecumenical Service food security council, an ecumenical coalition of churches that includes St. Mary, established the Fredericksburg Food Security Program to provide food for families in need. Each church takes a month to pack food and this was the first time at St. Mary.

The Fredericksburg program was established after the success of the Stafford Food Security Inc., which was founded by Tim and Amy White. Tim is deployed with the military, so Amy coordinated the packing at St. Mary. She said the difference between Stafford Food Security and other backpack meal programs is there is no income eligibility or requirement. 

“A staff member or anyone who notices that a child may be hungry can simply pick up a bag and give it to the child to take home whenever they are needed,” said Amy. 

In the past year, Stafford Food Security gave out more than 3,000 bags of food. It began at Conway Elementary in Fredericksburg, and is now in all public schools in Stafford, King George and several places in Fredericksburg.

In addition to food, the bags contain a letter in English and Spanish from the school principal that explains why their child has been given the bag, as well as a list of resources available to the family in the community. The note apologizes if the child was misidentified but tells them to go ahead and enjoy the meal. The children, who receive the bags from their guidance counselor, believe they are getting the prize for the week when they are invited to take a bag. Some even bring the snack food for their lunches the next day. The bags are color coordinated to match the school colors.

“The best way to keep children from being hungry is to educate the adults or parents on resources available to them so their family can be fed properly,” said Elena Doyle, outreach coordinator. “This program just began in February and so far it is going well.”

Michelle Chew, group leader of the confirmation group, said her students grasp the concept that being a part of your community means helping others. 

“We teach them that it should be a regular thing to step out of your comfort zone and go into the community and help others,” said Chew. “What they really are discovering is that they feel so much better about themselves when they do that.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018